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ATE: 100% Collins vs. Eubank vs. Benn

Retired, Chris Eubank & Nigel Benn:
Retired, Chris Eubank & Nigel Benn:

In this week’s special edition of ‘Ask the Editor’ (ATE), we tackle one of the fiercest debates on the UK boxing scene – who was the best boxer between Steve Collins, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn?

All three won world titles and public acclaim.

Nigel Benn 42-5-1 (35)
WBO middleweight world title 1990
WBC super middleweight title 1992-1996

Chris Eubank 45-5-2 (23)
WBO middleweight world title 1990-1991
WBO super middleweight world title 1991-1995

Steve Collins 36-3 (21)
WBO middleweight world title 1994-1995
WBO super middleweight world title 1995-1997

The SecondsOut editing team and readers from around the globe have considered this tricky question.

If you simply look at their results against each other, Steve Collins appears to reign supreme. But it is important to consider the entire career of a boxer when considering who truly was the best.

There were six matches between the three boxers from 1990 to 1996.

1. 18th November 1990: Chris Eubank TKO9 Nigel Benn

2. 9th October 1993: Nigel Benn D12 Chris Eubank

3. 18th March 1995: Steve Collins W12 Chris Eubank

4. 9th September 1995: Steve Collins W12 Chris Eubank

5. 6th July 1996: Steve Collins TKO4 Nigel Benn

6. 9th November 1996: Steve Collins TKO6 Nigel Benn

Let the debate begin.

Name : William Wade
Country : Germany
Your Question :
The difficulty with a black and white answer on Benn, Eubank and Collins, is possibly leaving out important factors, such as the fighters being in their peak, styles, post McClellan and Watson etc. It’s always going to be a subjective answer. As in other ’who’s best?’ debates, it probably comes down to the personality of the one choosing - does he/she prefer bravery over skill, or ferocity over tactics etc. In my own opinion, I loved the fear-turned-into-ferocity of Nigel Benn, the tactical mind of Eubank and the joining of mind and ruggedness in Collins. If I’m pushed though, I’ve got to pick Collins above the other two. He may have beaten them towards the end of their best years, but I feel he would have had the ability and strength of character to do it at any point in their careers.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: Good question, William. I agree. Steve Collins would have had the edge over both Benn and Eubank, regardless of which stage of their careers they fought in. I truly believe what gave Collins the edge over the other two was his early years experience of training and fighting in the tough Boston gyms. Collins was naturally tough anyway just like Benn, but Collins developed the inner steel and boxing skills in those early days.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: William, You have to pick Collins over Eubank and Benn. Results count and Collins was 4-0 against these two not-so-gentlemen.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: I’ve always thought Eubank was the most complete fighter of the three. I mean, they were all great, and all had elements of elite fighters, but I think that Chris was that little bit smarter than the others. Collins beat both men, but he didn’t face them in their primes. I think the Irishman would have always beaten Benn, but Eubank would have edged him in his prime.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: We comparing these three boxers, firstly we have to say they were all world class fighters and deserving world champions. The more I think of it, the more I think UK boxing fans were blessed to have all three around at the same time. But you have to look at their complete body of career work and all had great triumphs. Yes, Collins beat Eubank and Benn twice, but I think you can make an argument that both were past their best then. Benn clearly was, Eubank marginally so. Not to say that Collins was a genuine world champion either. Eubank deserves credit for his first win over Benn, but the ‘Dark Destroyer’ appeared to win their rematch even though it was scored a draw.

Name : Johnny.H
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
With regards to the debate about who was the best fighter out of Benn, Eubank, Collins, I challenge anybody to watch the Benn vs. McClellan fight and then dispute that Benn wasn’t the best. You could have put King Kong in the ring with Benn that night - he wasn’t getting beaten by anybody....not Collins, not Eubank, nor (in my opinion) Roy Jones Jr.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: Johnny, I agree Nigel Benn was fired up that night but for me styles make fights and Collins had the edge over both Benn and Eubank. Having said that, one could argue that Michael Watson was the best of all the British of that era. And don’t forget Herol Graham either.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Johnny, the question as to who was the best fighter and who could have beaten Nigel Benn on the night Benn fought Gerald McClellan are separate issues. You judge the quality of a boxer on his body of work. Not many heavyweights could have beat Buster Douglas on the night Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, but nobody will make the claim Douglas was a great fighter. Also, Benn would not have beaten a prime Roy Jones on ANY night.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: Taking nothing away from Benn’s performance, he was very lucky to get out of the first with McClellan. He was knocked through the ropes and given far too much time to recover by the referee. I agree that post-McClellan, Benn was not the same fighter, but Collins and Eubank were just that little bit better in my opinion, regardless of where they were in their career.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: Benn’s win over McClellan was one of the greatest in-fight comebacks ever seen. He had no right to get out of the first round, but he did on sheer will, determination and fighting heart. He landed hard on McClellan in the next two rounds to the point where the American was forced away from his normal aggressive mode and was even boxing on the outside as a southpaw at times! Both boxers took tremendous punishment in that fight and no one can ever doubt their fighting heart. That was a fight in ever sense of the word. Sadly, neither man was ever the same again. But I also agree with Greg, a prime Roy Jones Jr would have beaten Benn that night. That’s no disrespect to Nigel, because Roy at his best was a master boxer.

Name : Ian Benson
Country : Canada
Your Question :
Having been blessed enough to see Benn, Watson, Eubank and Collins all at their respective best, I find it difficult to make an easy call too, as who is the best. I think the best way to sum it up would be, all were in their own styles what boxing to the pure fan is all about. They were warriors, gentlemen and a pleasure to watch. I think to try and separate them does them a disservice because we would be better served at being privileged to have seen them all.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: Great email Ian, I can see where you are coming from. It’s a pain having to dissect great fighters and definitively say ’who was the best’. Often it’s like apples and oranges. They are all different, and were great for their own unique style.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Ian, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy debate on who was the better fighter - it shows the interest fans had in these three boxers.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: Very well put Ian, you would make a great politician.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: Good point Ian. All three were world class fighters. Part of the fun of following boxing is debating the ‘what if’ and ‘who was the best’. One of the best aspects that Collins, Eubank and Benn must be credited with is that they were prepared to fight each other and make the big fights.

Name : Owen.B
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
In relation to who was better Eubank, Collins or Benn? I think Eubank comes out on top, after all he twice beat Watson who knocked out Benn, as well as stopping Benn himself. I then pick Benn as he notched up great results against hard-hitting opponents like Barkley and McClellan. Collins was excellent but he fought Eubank and Benn past their prime. I would have liked to have seen a prime Eubank and Benn fight Roy Jones and James Toney. Who do you think would have come out on top? Were they dodged because of what they did to Watson and the G-man?

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: I agree with your assessment of Eubank, Owen. I don’t see any of the Brits doing well against Toney or Jones I’m afraid. They were a class above Eubank, Benn and Collins. Eubank would have had the best chance against Toney and Jones, based on his intelligence and mental toughness. Toney and Jones were probably the most gifted super middleweights in history (with Jones edging it slightly). Eubank, Benn and Collins were just that little bit below.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: Owen, I too would have loved to have seen the British fighters in with Jones Jr or Toney. All those fights would have been great to watch but would we be discussing these great British match-ups if Jones and Toney had fought them in their primes?

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Owen, Benn, Eubank and Watson were fine fighters, but not in the class of Jones or Toney.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: Unfortunately fights with Toney, Jones Jr and Benn, Eubank and Collins never happened. The Americans seemingly didn’t want to go to fight in the UK and those in the UK were busy with their own domestic match-ups. I agree with Ben, Eubank would have had the best chance of beating Toney and Jones Jr. Though, Collins work rate and chin would have given Toney trouble as well. A prime Jones would have been too fast for him.

Name : Paul Wickes
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
Chaps, with the amount of ’what would have happened if’ scenarios that people talk about on this forum, I have one for you. What would have happened if Chris Eubank had received a count from the referee after Michael Watson put him down in the eleventh round of their rematch? My guess is that Watson would have gone back to his corner, confident that the 10-8 round he’d just secured had given him victory on the scorecards. He’d have coasted the last round and picked up the unanimous decision. I think he’d have rematched Nigel Benn, outscored him and gone on to fight Steve Collins and then Eubank again. I think Watson would have had the beating of Collins and Eubank, both in close fights also. I was a huge fan of Michael Watson in his hey-day and I thought his achievement of completing the Marathon was astonishing. He was and still is a class act, but just think what could have been...

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Paul, there’s no way to tell when Watson’s injury began in the Eubank fight. Watson was certainly in the class of Eubank, Benn and Collins.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: Paul, Michael Watson is indeed an incredible man. I said in one of the other questions that I thought Michael was potentially the best of the lot but unfortunately his career was prematurely ended on that sad night at White Hart Lane all those years ago.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: That’s the thing about fighting Paul, one split second too late, one tiny error of judgement or one momentary lapse of concentration can separate a fighter from his senses and turn a fight around. Watson was the best of the lot if you ask me, a tremendous fighter with extraordinary guile and mental fortitude. But he lost fair and square to Eubank, and I don’t think it does any good to ask ’what if’. I’m sure Watson has done enough of that himself, and probably concluded that no one could possibly know.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: Paul, maybe it would have happened like that. Watson was seemingly on the same level as Eubank, but he did lose and we can only truly measure him on what ultimately happened in the ring. With no disrespect intended, the record shows that Eubank was better than Watson.

Name : Neil Sho
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
Firstly, in response to Thomas Peak’s view, I totally agree with his assessment about Collins, Eubank and Benn. I don’t believe as a fighter that Collins could have beaten either Eubank or Benn had he fought them before they fought each other or before their tragic fights. Both fighters are better and more rounded than Collins, but that is not taking away from the fact that Collins achieved a victory over both men.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: I disagree, Neil. Steve Collins was at the end of his career when he fought Benn and Eubank. I believe a peek Collins had the style to beat them both.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Neil, while Collins may have not beaten Eubank and Benn at their zenith, Collins himself was past 30 and near the end of his career.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: Hi Neil, I do think that Collins would have always beaten Benn. Benn was monstrous puncher and a bully in the ring, but did not like it when he got a taste of his own medicine. Collins was one tough customer, and would not be intimidated by anyone. I think this affected Benn psychologically, and would have cost him the fight at any stage of his career.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: I can see where Clive and Greg are coming from, but I think while Collins was later in age, he was still young in big fights and primed himself for his matches with Eubank and Benn, which were the biggest nights of his career. But at that time, Benn and Eubank had already been in huge fights and had taken a lot pf punishment throughout their careers. Don’t forget, Collins-Benn I ended with Nigel twisting his ankle and Collins wasn’t exactly dominating clearly any of the first four rounds. Benn actually announced his retirement sitting on the ring apron after the fight. In his mind, he had already retired when he came back for the rematch. I don’t believe Benn was at his best mentally or physically for either fight.

Name : Mark Jackman
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
You asked who was the best between Eubank Benn and Collins? Eubank without a doubt!!! He was smarter, as durable as Collins and could hit as hard as Benn (as he found out). The only reason Collins beat him was because Eubank’s head was never the same after the terrible injury to Watson. Watson himself comes in second then Benn and Collins are pretty equal.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: You may well have a point about Eubank not being the same fighter after the Watson tragedy. I thought the same thing and asked Chris Eubank that same question a few years ago and he said ‘no’. I can’t remember exactly what he said but words to the effect of he was a professional fighter and had to do the best job he could. Having said that I do think Eubank lost his edge after the second Watson fight.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Mark, Eubank was unbeaten in 14 fights after the Michael Watson bout. To pin Collins’ win on the Watson outcome doesn’t hold water.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: I think Watson was better than all of them, with Eubank a close second. It’s splitting hairs really they were all great fighters and assets to the sport.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: At their absolute peaks, I have Eubank and Collins at the top. Collins’ fitness and workrate beat Eubank twice. Chris just couldn’t keep the same pace when they fought, although he fought well in spurts. I thought Benn beat Eubank in their rematch. Nigel landed the cleaner, harder punches. Eubank took a lot of punishment in the later fights in his career and I think this hurt him against Collins.

Name : Barnaby Chesterman
Country : France
Your Question :
Eubank, Benn or Collins? I like the question and I think I have the answer. Benn was the most exciting, Eubank the most talented but Collins, the warrior, was the better all-round fighter. He beat Eubank and Benn twice each and Eubank had a win and a draw against Benn. I think Collins would’ve given a prime Roy Jones Jr a heck of a run for his money....if Jones had not run scared!

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: Are you on crack Barnaby!? Roy Jones would have made Collins look silly, (no disrespect to the brave Irishman). Their styles were completely opposite, and Collin’s was tailer made to Jones’ blistering counter punching. As far as the rest of your analysis goes, you make some good points.


GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Barnaby, Jones would have beaten Collins easily.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: Yes, Collins’ fitness and toughness would have seen him go twelve rounds with a prime Roy Jones Jr, but I can’t imagine how he would have caught and hurt him. Roy would have just been too fast for him in his prime. When Collins fought Eubank and Benn, they were right in front of him, which suited his game plan devised with his trainer Freddie Roach.

Name : Patrick Kelly
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
What happened to Nigel Benn after fought Eubank?

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: You pose a short, sharp question Patrick. I assume you are suggesting that Benn was never the same after his second fight with Eubank? Maybe. I actually had him winning that fight. If he hadn’t been penalised a point for a low blow, Benn would have won on the official cards. I thought his performance in the Eubank rematch was impressive. He took too many punches against Gerald McClellan, but his heart and physical drive saw him win a fight he had simply no right to win. Against Collins, Benn was clearly past his best.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Recently Patrick, I understand Benn has mellowed, turned to religion and his selling his boxing memorabilia.

Name : Kevin Stock
Country : Ireland
Your Question :
Eubank was leagues above Benn and Collins. Nigel was a slugger who relied solely on his punch, speed and ducking below knee height and also being a bully. Benn maybe did deserve to win the return, but Eubank wasn’t at his best that night and Benn was ducking low all the time as usual. Steve just got to Eubank psychologically, and in the fights just out hussled him completely and out muscled him. Really, Benn and Collins weren’t very good. Eubank was. He either stood and jabbed everyone’s head off in top shape and/or countered everything that came at him using reactions and agility to move in and out of range. It’s clear as day lads.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Kevin, to say Benn and Collins "weren’t very good" defeats any other argument you have.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: You’re entitled to your opinion, Kevin, but I think your well off the mark

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: You’ve got a point Kevin, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was ’leagues ahead’. Collins and Benn had some tremendous victories in their day, and were absolutely comparable to Eubank’s.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: All three were world class boxers. We are splitting hairs in trying to work out who was the best. I think it is unfair to say that either were a long way ahead of the others.

Name : Callum Donaldson
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
You have to say Nigel Benn was the top guy from Benn-Eubank-Collins, even though Eubank and Collins beat him. DeWitt and Barkley IMO would make Eubank fight for 180 seconds of each round and probably beat him. Benn blew them away. Steve Collins wouldn’t stand a hope in hell’s chance against Gerald ’G-Man’ McClellan, would he??? Interestingly, Chris Eubank showed signs of being a potentially excellent fighter on the small hall shows, the way he fought out of a crouch back then and let his combinations go from all sorts of angles was impressive and he was a lot smoother when he was younger and lighter. He didn’t really hit any kind of spotlight until the TV contract signing for the Benn bout and Reginaldo Dos Santos KO/pose. Collins was seen as a very limited fighter in his early American days, but a good grafter willing to take 3 to land 4. It is fair to say that Benn was never the same after the McClellan tragedy. His mind seemed elsewhere in those last five fights and his balance awful compared to before. I think Nigel Benn, nearer his thought-before-launch peak, cuts Collins to smithereens and barely has a glove laid on him. He beat iron-chinned Eubank by 3 or 4 rounds on an OFF-NIGHT. So Benn for me. 1. Benn. 2. Collins. 3. Eubank.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: You are entitled to your opinion Callum, but I respectfully disagree. Benn was a great fighter, but a limited one. I think Benn was underrated in his skill, his footwork improved over time, and he was able to pick his shots with excellent accuracy. However, his chin was not the best, and he often did not react well to pressure. Eubank and Collins were far better at taking punishment, and I believe were that little bit better as overall fighters.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Callum, I agree Benn went downhill fast at the end. Eubank beats DeWitt and Barkley and Collins, with his steadiness and durability, would have given a stamina-challenged McClellan problems.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: That’s the beauty of this debate. You can make an argument for either Benn, Collins or Eubank being the best on the basis of a single fight in their careers. On his night such as with the McClellan fight, Benn was awesome. I thought he deserved to get the decision in his rematch with Eubank, but clearly lost to Collins in both fights when not at his best. It’s not easy to get an agreement on who was the best, which is why we are having this ATE debate.

Name : Franklin Watts
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
Sugar Boy Malinga described Eubank as ’a very good boxer’ and Benn as ’not a good boxer’. Henry Wharton says he’d have definitely beaten Benn in a direct rematch, because he wouldn’t have frozen for the whole of the first third of the fight. Henry also says that, no matter what he did, he’d have never beaten the Eubank that night they fought in G-Mex. Collins? Pfft. He just lunged himself at Eubank all night. Not in the same class.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Franklin, can’t argue with those who were in the ring with these men. Wharton froze in the Benn fight - that may be a fact, but it’s just an excuse. Benn had something to do with Wharton’s performance, so credit him.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: Interesting analysis Franklin. I do agree that Collins was a bit unrefined, but his tenacity was second to none. He may have lunged at Eubank all night, but it was effective lunging.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: If you can make the point that Eubank and Benn were past their best when they fought Collins, maybe Collins wasn’t as great as he appeared? He did lose on points to Sumbu Kalambay, Reggie Johnson and Mike McCallum. I’m not saying I subscribe to that theory fully, but when analysing Collins’ career in full they must be noted.

Name : Patrick Ben
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
Eubank was a master boxer/puncher, Benn was a slugger/brawler and Collins somewhat of a boxer/fighter. Eubank > Benn, Collins

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Patrick, I wouldn’t call Eubank a “master”, but his style was certainly unique. Credit his intelligence.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: At his best Eubank was impressive. But on their best nights Benn and Collins were supreme as well. I don’t think Eubank had slipped too far when he was beaten by Collins, but all of those clean shots he shrugged off over the years had worn him a little by then.

Name : Ollie Morris
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
Crazy as it sounds, Collins wasn’t in the class of Benn or Eubank! I know he sent them both into retirement, but he was rubbish! He couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag and had about nil talent. He was awkward because he was so limited, his chin, heart, courage, workrate, stamina, strength etc. got him through fights and Nigel and Chris clearly weren’t at their best then. Chris had already lost a number of fights clearly i.e. Amaral and Schommer in the 6 months before Steve jumped all over him & got the close nod. He looked rusty and crusty against Close and Storey, inferior Irish fighters to even Collins. But 1990-1993 Chris Eubank was awesome. As for Nigel, 1987-1995 Nigel was awesome. It’s just that McClellan punched everything out of him. I.M.O, it goes - Eubank tops, then Benn nipping at his heels and then Collins a little off. Herol Graham, Michael Watson and Joe Calzaghe better than these three though, just not as famous as Benn and Eubank. Roy Jones Jr and James Toney would’ve blew Benn away and made Eubank look like a statue without him even meaning to look like a statue, Chris just did not know sharp punching and evasions like that, he didn’t know that fluidity and sharpness and it would’ve been a bit of a culture shock in my opinion.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: You make some good points Ollie, but I don’t agree about Collins. I think he had underrated skills. He wasn’t pretty to watch, but he could put his punches together well, and was actually quite good at controlling the tempo of a fight. If you watch his fights against Eubank, Collins out hustled him, which was not an easy thing to do despite his advanced age. I think Nigel Benn was an awesome force in boxing, but would come unstuck against guys he could not hurt. Collins was one of them, and would have beaten Benn any time they fought. I agree that Toney and Jones were better than all of them though. Too fast, and too skilled.

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Ollie, you bash Collins, while giving him credit for chin, heart, courage, workrate, stamina and strength. Those qualities are the products of hard work and a confident mind. Those are important talents, and more impressive than God-given talents of speed and punching power.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: I can see where you are coming from Ollie. I’m not sure that I agree. As I wrote earlier, you have to take into account Collins’ earlier points losses to Sumbu Kalambay, Reggie Johnson and Mike McCallum. Collins fought well to beat Eubank in their first fight. That was probably the most impressive win of his career. Benn was past his best, as you pointed out, when Collins beat him.

Name : Stuart Coy
Country : United Kingdom
Your Question :
With regards to the Benn/Eubank/Collins debate: there’s one British fighter who was around at the time who keeps being forgotten and was better than all of them - Michael Watson. I’m not being sentimental in the light of what happened - I think Watson was definitely the best of them. I think he should have got the decision against Eubank in their first fight, and was well on the way to beating him in their second fight before Eubank’s desperate punch. Watson also out-thought and knocked Benn out in six rounds in one of the most exciting fights I’ve seen in a British ring. OK, you can say he beat a reckless Benn before he learnt how to pace himself, but I think Watson would always have had too much skill for Benn. I think Watson was as strong as Eubank and Benn, but with better skills. Let’s remember him as the superb fighter he was. For the record, I think the order should be: 1.Watson. 2.Benn. 3.Eubank. 4.Collins.

BEN COHEN ANSWERS: Mostly agreed, although I have it 1. Watson. 2. Eubank. 3. Collins. 4. Benn.

PAUL UPHAM ANSWERS: 1. Eubank. 2. Collins. 3. Benn. 4. Watson.

CLIVE BERNATH ANSWERS: I have said I believe Watson was potentially the best of the four

GREG JUCKETT ANSWERS: Stuart, Watson certainly was an equal, as he proved in his fights with Eubank and Benn.

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