We just finished watching the latest YouTube video from Sky Sports Boxing, which was the hugely entertaining, informative, and at times hostile chat between five of the best Super-Middleweights, first aired in 2013. The guests were Chris Eubank Sr, Steve Collins, Richie Woodhall, Roy Jones Jr, and Joe Calzaghe, loosely corralled by interviewer Johnny Nelson. Sadly, absent was Nigel Benn who couldn’t make it over from Australia.
From the start, it was clear that between these fighting men there were going to be some mixed emotions. While mostly respectful, there were clearly men present who had unfinished business. Let’s take a look at the main points.
As he was when he fought, Woodhall was respectful, mild-mannered, and simply appeared happy to have been invited. Between those present on the table, Woodhall challenged Calzaghe for the WBO Super-Middleweight title in 2000 and lost, as well as losing to Roy Jones Jr as an amateur at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Woodhall described professional boxing as “a sports-entertainment industry”, summing up something I’ve been trying to explain to myself over the past few months. Commenting on whether he’d have been more successful if he was less mild-mannered and more outspoken, he said “I wasn’t the greatest of entertainers, I just did what I had to do in the ring… that’s probably why I didn’t earn the money I could have if I’d had that razzmatazz.”
Woodhall explained that in achieving his goal of becoming a world champion, beating Thulani Malinga for the WBC-Super-Middleweight title in 1988, he lost a part of his motivation to keep boxing. He recognized that he wasn’t the kind of champion who would defend his title for years, considering himself to be in a lower league than the “superstars” that sat with him around the Sky Sports Table.
We gained a huge amount of respect for Richie Woodhall, who excellently represented the hard-working, humble, and polite working-class boxer you find training in small gyms up and down the UK.
Roy Jones Jr.
Roy seemed to receive the most amount of respect from everyone at the table, besides Steve Collins. The chat started out with Woodhall giving Roy Jones props for his career and briefly talking about how hard it was to fight him at the ’88 Olympics. The chat ended with Steve Collins walking out after agreeing to a fight Roy Jones Jr, having been goaded into anger by Chris Eubank.
Responding to Johnny Nelson asking him why he continued to box, Jones said that he’s a fighter and a warrior, so he’ll keep fighting until the fire inside him dies out. He said he once had a goal to become undefeated, but once he was disqualified for hitting a downed Montell Griffin in ’97, his objectives had to change because his old goal had become unachievable.
Jones’ new goal became to be the first boxer in 106 years to move up from Middleweight to Heavyweight winning all the world titles as he went, which he achieved. Once he achieved that he decided to move back down to defend at light-heavy, then back up to defend his Heavyweight belt.
His DQ loss to Griffin angered Jones and led to him chasing different goals and ultimately prolonged his career, as he explained that without the possibility to retire undefeated, he saw less reason to ever retire. Jones, of course, went on to continue boxing well into his 40s, finally retiring in 2018 with a 66-9 record.
Jones seemed genuinely happy with his career, happy for Calzaghe in achieving undefeated status and completely unfazed by Steve Collins, who wanted nothing more than to prove himself against Jones. While Jones didn’t share Collins’ obsession with him, given how much he achieved in his career, he did say “he said he still wants some. I was a giver. If you wanted it, I gave it to you. He said he wants it”, showing himself to be very willing to fight Collins. Obviously, as we now know, that fight never materialized.
Calzaghe, along with Woodhall, remained the most relaxed throughout the interview. With his undefeated record, including wins over everyone at the table besides Steve Collins who he never faced, Calzaghe had nothing to prove to anyone present.
Calzaghe spoke of his respect for the men he was talking to, highlighting the fact that they had been inspiring characters for him as he was growing up and getting into boxing. They were the legends of his youth and he was glad he got the opportunity to be considered among them.
Calzaghe also talked about the business side of boxing, explaining how it’s not as easy as people think. He said that just because two boxers want to fight and they’re the top guys in the division, there’s a lot of discussion and negotiation that goes into making it happen. He had a deep understanding and respect, for behind the scenes processes, something which a lot of fans and fighters today lack.
He expressed few regrets over not fighting certain boxers because if the business side of boxing didn’t allow it to materialize, he took other fights instead. Calzaghe obviously went on to have an amazing career and is widely regarded as the greatest Super-Middleweights of all time. He acted with the confidence of a man who holds that title, showing respect to everyone he talked to and not rising to any challenges, knowing with confidence where he stands.
From the off, Collins was aggressive and looked like he had a huge chip on his shoulder. He was verbally challenging everyone at the table, besides Calzaghe, and went as far as to offer Roy Jones a physical challenge. He explained that there was likely to be unfinished business between some men at the table, a view none of them really shared coming into the chat.
Collins‘ main sticking point was that there was an “unsettled score going back many years” between himself and Roy Jones Jr. It felt like the unsettled score was all Collins’, who looked to regard Jones as the biggest challenge of his career that was never met, while Jones defeated a throng of other challengers of Collins’ caliber. Collins returned to Jones several times asking why the fight never happened, accusing Jones of avoiding the fight.
He was locked most frequently in an argument with Eubank, who called him out a number of times and managed very successfully to rile him up every time. The first of these call-outs from Eubank was that Collins had retired in 1997 as an excuse for ducking Calzaghe. When Johnny Nelson asked him if he regretted not fighting Calzaghe, he responded “No. When I was at the end of my career, no disrespect, but I didn’t know who Joe was. 5 years after that Joe was the biggest name in the division… When you get to the end of your career…there’s only one or two fights that you want to get up for (Jones Jr)… It wasn’t going to happen.” It was a decent excuse until he himself went back on it later in the interview.
About 15 minutes in Eubank once again asked Collins to be honest about ducking Joe. Explaining that Collins relinquished his WBO belt rather than take the fight, which allowed Calzaghe and Eubank, on 12-days’ notice, to fight for the now vacant WBO title. Calzaghe then asked, “Did you think I was a big enough name after beating Chris… Did you think about fighting me after that?” to which Collins responded, “No”. But only seconds later Collins said that he “pulled-out” of the fight, Eubanks quickly interjected “Which fight?” and Collins said, “Well I didn’t pull out of the fight. I was pulled-out”. Again, Eubank asked “You pulled out of which fight?” and Collins answered “The fight with Joe… I was in training for the fight yeah”, to which Calzaghe confusedly responded “I didn’t know that one. I didn’t know that.”
Collins continued to argue that he injured his foot whilst training to face Calzaghe and was pulled out by a WBO doctor. This is during a supposed training camp for a fight that Collins had repeatedly said he never considered because Joe wasn’t important. Despite not liking Collins’ attitude for most of the interview, until that particular point, I’d had no reason not to believe everything he said. Upon hearing that though the rest of the discussion sounded like a lot of posturing from a man who wasn’t telling much of the truth. For the rest of the interview, Eubank continued to rile up Collins, perhaps sensing that he’d backed him into a corner over a sore spot that he didn’t want to admit.
“Simply the Best” didn’t disappoint for a moment during this chat. Say what you will about the man, whose character is pretty similar to Marmite, he knows how to put on an entertaining interview. He started out with a healthy dose of his characteristically well-spoken and often wordy conversation, then found some old wounds and proceeded to prod them very hard with a stick.
He spoke of not wanting to fight Roy Jones Jr. in his prime because he didn’t consider the danger to be necessary. Eubank said Jones looked too much to handle, that he himself was not mentally willing to get into the ring with a man that dangerous. He shared a level of mentality with Richie Woodhall, that being an acute understanding of the levels within the boxing game, holding no illusions about his own abilities being greater than they were.
Eubank described Calzaghe’s punching power, answering those boxing critics who said Calzaghe punches too quickly to be powerful. Comparing ‘The Pride of Wales’ punching power to his old nemesis Nigel Benn’s, Eubank said Benn hit harder. But he also said that Calzaghe’s fast punches, every one of them, was a hurtful punch. He said that he felt shocked by the amount of power behind them, precisely because they looked fast and light, explaining that it was the combination of speed and power that he was knocked down just 15 seconds into their fight in 1997.
Eubank also spoke about his rivalry with Nigel Benn, how as a result of this rivalry he’d had no reason to look further afield at men like Roy Jones Jr. Then Eubank started to take aim at another rival, one sitting at the table with them, and continued to focus on him for much of the interview. While he said that held no grudges against him, it was clear Eubank took enjoyment from poking Steve Collins about his inconsistent explanations. No one at the table was more critical or accusing of Collins than Eubank, who did it all with a soft voice and calm manner.
Our Final Thoughts…
The whole interview was great to watch. There was a lot of good insider info from some of the best boxers of our time and we got a genuine insight into how some rivalries continue far beyond the moment each man hangs up his gloves.
You got the impression that while some boxers retire feeling genuinely happy with their careers, some of them never quite get the accolades or respect they feel they deserved and end up carrying that with them for a long time afterwards.