Eubank loses crown

Millstreet blues for the champion as home boy Collins recovers from tenth-round knock-down to take title
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The Independent Online
WHEN the strutting had to stop, Chris Eubank proved equal to the moment. Just as Muhammad Ali accepted his first loss with grace and dignity when Joe Frazier beat him in 1971, so Eubank showed class as his 10-year unbeaten record was smashed by the unsung Irish challenger Steve Collins in a night of unforgettable passion and emotion in the Green Glens arena here in the tiny village of Millstreet.

All three judges had the Irishman in front by margins of 116-114 , 115- 111, and 114-113. After the fight, Eubank immediately congratulated his conqueror. Indeed, his demeanour throughout 12 absorbing rounds demonstrated a rare respect for an opponent who, like so many of his 14 previous challengers for the World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title, had mastered his trade in the course of a long career spent mostly in American rings.

Collins came home to win the world title last night but the real measure of his quality was in the defeats that he had suffered previously - three points losses all by close verdicts to world champions of a quality Eubank had not faced.

Even on a neutral ground, the 30-year-old Dubliner would have been the most formidable opponent Eubank could have chosen outside of the other three rival world title claimants. But with the backing of a committed capacity crowd of 7,500, he was unbeatable.

Not even the first knock-down of his career when a long right from Eubank dropped him to one knee early in the 10th was enough to break the Irishman's absolute concentration which remained rock solid during the most extraordinary ring entrance even this master showman had yet devised.

Last December, when he beat Henry Wharton, Eubank came in on a crane over the heads of the crowd. This time he appeared seated on a Harley Davidson motorcycle which rose some 30 feet as the champion's name was picked out in a backdrop of fireworks before Eubank made his way to the ring through a cloud of smoke and sparklers. Throughout it all, Collins sat in his corner with his eyes tightly closed and he maintained the posture even during his own introduction.

He made the best possible start, outworking the lethargic champion in the early rounds and it was not until the fourth that Eubank at last began to impose himself on the fight, landing a couple of fierce uppercuts and knocking Collins into the ropes with a jab.

Collins kept grafting away in the fifth and sixth but he was missing more than he landed and one questioned how much this might tell against him in the later rounds.

But Collins, who had spent four weeks training in Las Vegas, was in magnificent shape for the biggest fight in his 32-bout career and he came back strongly in the seventh and eighth, even flooring the champion briefly in the eighth with a glancing right to the chest which appeared to catch Eubank off balance and sent him sprawling on his back against the ropes. Eubank gestured angrily to the American referre Ron Lipton that it had not been a legitimate knock-down but had to take the mandatory eight count.

Eubank has been in tight corners before, though, and it looked for a while in the later rounds as though he might extricate himself again as he landed the cleaner and crisper punches on the Irishman, who was now tiring.

A long right dropped Collins to one knee early in the tenth but he signalled to his corner that he was all right and when he rose he frustrated all Eubank's attempt to build on that success.

Surprisingly, it was Collins who produced the big effort in the eleventh, out-hustling Eubank and, as they past each other on the way back to the corners at the end of the round Eubank gave him a tap of the glove in acknowledgement of his fighting qualities.

The Irishman was cut over the left eye in the last round but it was too late to make any difference and he kept bustling away to the final bell to hand Eubank his first defeat in 44 fights, 20 of them for the WBO middle- weight or super-middleweight championships.