Dublin's Celtic Warriors are striking back for Irish Boxing
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Dublin's Celtic Warriors are striking back for Irish Boxing

WHEN it comes to understanding what it takes to be successful in the world of boxing, few people are better placed than Steve Collins.

The former WBO middleweight and super-middleweight champion competed against the best boxers on both sides of the Atlantic during his career.

And the 50-year-old is confident that the Celtic Warriors gym in his native Dublin is well on its way to producing the next batch of superstars.

“Irish boxing has a great future now thanks to Paschal and his gym in Dublin. That is going to make the difference,” says Collins of his younger brother.

“We’ve always had talent, now boxers have a place to go where they are going to get great tuition and knowledge.

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“The next thing is to get them coverage. You come to the United Kingdom or go to the United States to make it in the game, because you’ve got to go where the population is and where the people are.”

To the frustration of many Irish boxing supporters, RTÉ does not screen professional shows.

However, Collins can see the state broadcaster’s position.

“RTÉ are not even in the running for it,” he starts. “Boxing is covered by the British and American media.

“It is not a personal thing, it is a financial thing.

“It is a professional game, it is a business, and it is about making money.

“If guys are going to give up work to concentrate on boxing then they are going to need to make a living out of it.

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“To make a living, you need to get a wage and that comes from the fights being broadcast on TV and the fans paying for their tickets to watch the shows.

“In Ireland we just haven’t got the population.”

Collins continued: “We have the talent, so we are going to train our guys so that they can go away and fight in the States and the UK — and make it.

“You’ve got to impress the boxing fans in the UK and the States for them to tune into the TV and support you.

“If they do that, then you are on the road to success but you’ve got to get the public behind you.

“But to do that, you’ve got to be a good fighter in order to break into the scene.”

Today Collins spends most of his time in England, where he lives in St Albans in Hertfordshire.

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After being approached by Frank Buglioni, who was considering a move to the States to earn his stripes, Collins convinced the young English fighter to switch to the Celtic Warriors.

Such coups have brought ever more exposure to the training centre in Blanchardstown.

“When people like Frank Buglioni come to our gym, they bring attention to the fighters in the gym who are helping him with his training camp which helps to sell us,” starts Collins.

“The fact I’m here in England means that a lot of British fighters can get involved in our gym in Ireland.

“That helps to open up doors and brings publicity for our Irish fighters.”

He continues: “We can put a show on and match anybody in the world with our gym, but nobody wants to come over to Dublin and fight us because we don’t have opponents; we have champions, contenders and future champions.

“So it’s a very hard to get fights for the boxers in our gym because they are [so] good.

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“We have to do a deal with promoters for our fighters to have them on their books and then they will bring them onto the circuit.”

As is often the case in boxing, such a process is anything but straightforward.

“No promoter wants to bring a fighter onto the circuit without control [over them],” he says.

“Because they are going to beat the fighters he already has on his books.

“That is our biggest problem. But the cream will always rise to the top, so we will come out on top eventually.

“Plus we have a very good reputation, the Collins brothers.

“People sit up and listen to us and pay attention to us, and we know we can produce the goods because we have the fighters.”

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Recent evidence backs such comments by the man who enjoyed a stellar career after winning 26 Irish titles as an amateur, before turning pro in 1986.

Last month, Sky Sports cameras returned to Ireland for the first time in two years — at Dublin’s 3Arena — to cover the Return of the Mack show, headlined by Matthew Macklin.

The Birmingham-born fighter was knocked out by the Argentinian Jorge Sebastian Heiland in the 10th round, but for Celtic Warriors it was a night that helped to show a wider audience just how much quality it possesses.

On the undercard, Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan produced a stunning first-round knock-out against Anthony Fitzpatrick.

There were also wins for fellow stable-men Jono Carroll and Luke Keeler.

Carroll, who grew up a stone’s throw from the Blanchardstown gym, defeated Declan Geraghty and is a case in point for what the centre can do for a young prospect.

Previously the 22-year-old broke his hand and, like many young Irishmen of his generation, chose to move to Australia rather than stay at home and collect the dole.

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After recovering, he worked as a scaffolder before returning to Ireland earlier in the year where he settled in Meath.

Celtic Warriors founder and trainer Paschal Collins takes up the Finglas native’s story.

“Jono walked into the gym seven months ago after being in Australia. I didn’t know him from Adam,” he says.

“He didn’t look like a fighter. I get this all the time, fighters want to come up and train.

“He came a couple of times and did some training and then I asked him if he wanted to do some sparring.”

Paschal adds: “What I do with a fighter his size is put him in with someone like Stephen Ormond.

“Stephen got back to me and said Jono was great sparring: tough, can punch and is very hard to hit.

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“Every trainer wants a fighter like that to walk into the gym.”

Carroll’s win over Geraghty secured him the last spot in the most recent Prizefighter edition at East London’s York Hall earlier this month.

The Dubliner triumphed and in doing so collected £32,000 along with priceless publicity.

Speaking afterwards, Carroll noted the crucial role played by Paschal Collins’ gym.

“I went into that gym hoping that Paschal was going to train me, because I know he doesn’t take many people on.

“I was just delighted for him to agree.”

He added: “I couldn’t have dreamed about this happening, I swear to God.”

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At the Macklin-headlined show, promoter Eddie Hearn was equally impressed by Luke Keeler’s victory and Collins concurs with the admiration which is growing around the Ballyfermot middleweight.

“Luke’s an amazing fighter — so much raw talent, too good for his own good,” says Steve Collins.

“Sometimes he can beat fighters himself without even listening to us and he knows that sometimes. He gets away with little things because he is very good. He has just got so much talent.

Meanwhile Collins describes Clondalkin lightweight Stephen ‘The Rock’ Ormond, who was due to take on Terry Flanagan in Sheffield on Saturday before withdrawing through illness, as the gym’s “jewel in the crown”.

Collins adds: “We’ve got a great bunch of kids. They’re articulate, educated, refined, and respectful. They even show up at press conferences wearing suits and looking smart.

“I’m very proud of them. Otherwise they wouldn’t be part of our business — we don’t entertain idiots.”