AT around midnight on Saturday, Steve Collins will know if the time he has invested in boxing over the past year has been worthwhile.
The former world champion doubled his commitment to the sport in August when agreeing to become the co-trainer, alongside his brother Paschal, of promising London super-middleweight Frank Buglioni.
Buglioni’s defends his WBO European title against domestic rival Lee Markham at Wembley Arena, headlining Frank Warren’s bill after last week’s withdrawal of both Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jnr.
He will be expected to show progress, particularly to Collins, who wasn’t looking to train anyone beyond his son, Steve Collins Jnr, and who once withdrew from a similar role when he felt his fighters lacked the necessary dedication to succeed.
Buglioni's finest win to date – and second working with the Collins brothers – came against the previously-undefeated Andrew Robinson on November 29 on the undercard of Tyson Fury’s heavyweight win with Dereck Chisora; cruiserweight Collins Jnr outpointed Mareks Kovalevskis after finally entering the ring in the early hours of Sunday at the end of the same bill which began at 4pm the previous afternoon.
“I’ve got so much knowledge and understanding of the game, it’s nice to pass it on to people you know appreciate it, are genuine, and not timewasters,” he told The Irish Post.
“With my son, I’m delighted he decided to become a fighter. It’s great to work with him because I can pass on my knowledge to him – I understand him and the game.
“The same with Frank Buglioni. I’ve known Frank a couple of years and I know his former trainers [Mark and Jimmy Tibbs], who are very capable and very good trainers. Frank needed a change of scenery and wanted to get out of London and came to me, and liked the set-up he had in Dublin. That’s why he’s in Dublin now and works with me in London.
“I’m not really looking for fighters. Maybe I might get involved in one or two more, it depends. I’m very picky. If I do get involved with a fighter it’s only because they’re something special. My time is so precious, I’ve so little of it [Collins also runs a farm], I cannot really give my time away to people if they’re not really serious about the game, you know?”
In the process of becoming a world champion at both middleweight and super-middleweight in the 1990s, Collins frequently changed trainer and location when working with the Petronelli brothers, Goody and Pat, alongside middleweight great Marvin Hagler, and then with Freddie King, Oscar Checa, Jimmy Tibbs, and Manny Pacquiao’s Svengali, Freddie Roach.
Paschal Collins, who inspired Irish heavyweight Kevin McBride to a memorable sixth-round stoppage victory over Mike Tyson in 2005, was then frequently alongside Steve Snr so it is for this reason Collins believes their unique set-up will succeed, despite a commonly-held belief that fighters should listen to only one voice.
“I’m part of the training set-up, the main man is Paschal, he’s the head trainer, head coach, the head everything, he runs the whole show,” said Collins, who soon after retiring from fighting briefly trained the Olympic gold medallist Michael Carruth.
“What I do is, when Frank and Stevie are in London, I work with them, prepping them for Dublin, where Paschal puts the finishing touches to them all [at The Celtic Warriors gym]. I’m part of Paschal’s team.
“The way it works now, I really believe the fighters involved with both Paschal and I honestly have the best of both worlds, because Paschal and I have come up the same route, we had the same professional trainers throughout our careers so we had a great understanding of the game and we both agree with each other. It really is a great advantage for the fighters to work with the two of us.
“When you’ve worked with the greatest trainers in the world, and you pick the best from them, and put it together, you’ve got probably four or five of the greatest trainers’ knowledge all wrapped up into one. And we’re very lucky to experience that, you know? They were all very successful trainers and they all trained world champions, and have a great history in the game.
When asked about working with his son Collins replied.“I absolutely love it [training Collins Jnr]. I was so nervous for his first fight. I just think he’s an absolutely amazing athlete, and he’s so much talent that he’s going to be a very successful fighter. He’s someone who’s taken the game with no amateur career, took up boxing two years ago at the age of 22. He’s very lucky, he’s been shown the correct way since day one, there’s no mistakes to correct in him, so he’s getting only good habits.
“I’m just thrilled with the progress of working with Frank [Buglioni], he’s like a sponge, he listens and he takes it all on board. He goes away and he absorbs it, and he practices over and over again.”
The potential presence of Collins and his old rival Chris Eubank Snr, who would have worked the corner of his own son, at Wembley on Saturday would have provided a sense of nostalgia for those thrilled by their two world-title fights, both of which Collins won, in the 90s.
Rarely has the difference in personality between two rivals been so stark, so it is perhaps for this reason there remains an edge between them, despite Collins retiring in 1997 and Eubank following him a year later. Recognising the importance of promotion in boxing, Collins encourages his fighters to build their profiles and that of The Celtic Warriors gym; Eubank, however, blocks many interview requests for his son.
“Maybe Chris Eubank just likes the limelight, I don’t know. It’s a father-son thing. It’s a double-edged sword. His son’s a very talented fighter. He’s a tough kid, with a great future in boxing. But the pressure he’s under because they’re making comparisons to him all the time is unfair.
“The son will learn so much from his father, and his father will benefit him so much in the game, than if he wasn’t around. It’s definitely a double-edged sword – there are a lot of plusses, but there are also a lot of minuses.”