Former world super-middleweight boxing champion Steve Collins will step into a boxing ring in the summer, just a few weeks shy of turning 50.
But while the combat sport is rife with depressing stories of veteran boxers returning to fight long after they should have hung up the gloves, the Irish sporting legend’s bout on July 6 is not one of them.
Collins will contest four light-hearted rounds with former British middleweight champion Neville Brown in a charity exhibition in Burton-on-Trent.
The contest is not about championship belts, nor is it a potential path back into the realm of competitive boxing.
For Collins, it is simply an outlet for the energy he still harbours at 49 to keep himself in the sort of shape few of us reach in our 20s – and all for a good cause.
The Celtic Warrior constantly remains busy these days, between his charity work, running a successful business and working closely with his son Steve Jr, who has been juggling both a fledgling boxing run of his own and a promising career in professional rugby union.
Concern over a boxer, even one of Collins’ calibre, exchanging punches in his late forties will forever lurk in the background. For every one Bernard Hopkins, who also aged 49 recently unified world light-heavyweight titles, there’s a host of Riddick Bowes.
But, speaking exclusively to Eurosport ahead of his participation as an expert analyst for live coverage of Wladimir Klitschko’s world heavyweight title showdown with Alex Leapai, Collins was adamant that he is comfortable in his current setting.
“This isn’t part of a comeback,” Collins explained. “The idea of me stepping into the ring with hungry young boxers looking to achieve what myself and other former champions did is ridiculous.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been offered comeback fights on more than one occasion, but I’ve turned them all down.
“I have done a lot of charity work since retiring and have successful business ventures. Basically, my fingers are in a lot of pies at the moment.
“But professional boxing is not one of them. I’ve been gone for over 15 years, but Neville Brown introduced me to his fitness regime with regards to getting back into top shape.
“I tried it out and have been using it since – I’m back in superb condition.”
Brown fought Collins at the Green Glens Arena in Ireland back in 1996 after Collins announced himself to a global audience with two consecutive wins over Chris Eubank for the WBO super-middleweight strap.
Collins retained the belt with an 11th-round TKO that night in Millstreet, and 18 years on the two will stand opposite one another in a far lighter display of not only the sweet science of boxing, but of two great figures from the sport’s past giving back to the community.
Collins said he would be open to future friendly sparring contests, but would anything ever consider him to battle competitively again?
Only one thing, he reckons – actually, make that one man.
“I’d come properly out of retirement to fight Roy Jones Jr tomorrow,” Collins said. “It wouldn’t be to try and launch a full-time comeback or get another world title shot, I just want to knock Roy Jones out.”
“It’d be a one-off grudge match but I’d do it. I’ve been medically cleared, I could do it, but I’d only do it to knock out Jones.”
On why he wants to fight the 45-year-old former world champion, who fought as recently as last December in Moscow, Collins said: “I wanted the fight in the 1990s.
“He slagged me off so I called him out, but it was never put together back then. We’ve been in talks for 20 years but he keeps pulling out at the last minute.
“I met him in person last year (for a Sky Sports programme) when it could have been me he fought later in the year, but I think he saw how fit and strong I still was and all of his trash talk became ‘no comment, no comment’.
“After that, he has been avoiding me like the plague.”
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter
Collins will be in the Eurosport studio on Saturday April 26 as Wladimir Klitschko defends his world heavyweight titles against Alex Leapai LIVE and in HD on Eurosport 2. Join the coverage from 21:30 BST (22:30 CET) and watch the undercard in full on Eurosport Player. CLICK FOR INFO
- Sports & Recreation
- Steve Collins
- Wladimir Klitschko