Just a short walk from his childhood Hamilton home, undefeated Commonwealth title challenger Nathaniel Collins (7-0, 2 KOs) is seeking to establish himself amongst some of the country’s best boxers tonight. He fights for new promoter Sam Kynoch at the Hamilton Academical’s football ground, New Douglas Park, in Scotland’s first open-air boxing show since heavyweight destroyer Mike Tyson visited the national stadium, Hampden Park.
Collins caught up with Boxing Social, pondering a life without boxing and the transition from console controllers to concussive combinations. “In all honesty, I was just into playing the Xbox when I was younger,” said Collins. “It wasn’t that I didn’t like sport, I loved running about, and I was always climbing trees and getting into adventures, but I was never into a specific sport. I played football, like everybody else, I was active, but it was never just one sport in general.
“I’m actually originally [from] Hamilton. So, I moved there when I was about five and I stayed there until I was 13-14. That’s where I started. My big cousin, Ryan Collins who fought Charlie Flynn twice, that’s who got me into boxing. We went to see him at the British Championships when I was just a wee fat kid, so my mum and dad were like: ‘Do you not fancy trying that out?’ I went along to a wee boxing club in Hamilton; I loved it, and I moved to a boxing club in Viewpark, and then eventually when I moved to Glasgow, I had my first fights at Bellahouston, and I moved to [trainer] Joe Ham Sr when I was about 16. I’ve been with Joe ever since – that’s about eight years we’ve been together now. I think I want to go back to being the fat kid, to be honest,” laughed the promising featherweight.
Now, squaring off opposite Ghana’s Felix Williams, a veteran of 31 professional fights of his own, the more inexperienced Collins is convinced that Kynoch Boxing’s show – screened via FightZone – is the perfect opportunity to announce himself. In a division currently ruled domestically by Leigh Wood (who fights Xu Can on the same night for the WBA Regular title in Brentwood, Essex).
“It’s funny because my record doesn’t show it, but I like to go out and try to hurt people,” claims the softly=spoken Scottish fighter. “I’ve got seven fights and three knockouts, and I’ve got a DQ on my record. I’ve probably got as much power there to take this guy out as his record shows [in his favour]. I think people see he’s got 29 fights and 22 knockouts, so he’s dangerous and he’s a big puncher. They’re probably not thinking about me like that. I’ve only had a few fights, and whoever I’ve come up against who wants to fight has been stopped. I’m fully going out there to stop this guy as well – people can expect excitement.
“What’s interesting to me is that Leigh Wood is now fighting for a world title and that to me means that the British [title] is gonna get vacated soon, hopefully. That puts me in a great position; if I’ve got the Commonwealth, then fingers crossed something like that happens. There’s plenty of people [for me to fight], there’s all the guys who came through the amateurs at the same time as me. We’ve been down for some sparring in England getting some featherweight work in, so it’s not short of fights down there and I’m just looking forward to that. The Commonwealth is a whole different title for me – lots of people don’t get the opportunity to fight for that, I think maybe Josh [Taylor] and Lee [McGregor] last won it [in Scotland]. So, it’s a big shot for me.”
Collins continued: “Only good can come from that and whatever happens next happens. If I get a shot at the British next, that would be great; if I can go down a European route at some point, that would be great. I just have to keep building. I’ve said it in lots of interviews before we had our break from Covid, I’m not just interested in fighting journeymen. I’m not interested in fighting these empty fighters; I’m fighting anybody at my weight who wants it. I’m getting that chance to step up and regardless of what happens, I know that I’m not messing about, and my career’s not been a build-up of empty opponents.”
Collins’ refreshing approach to the professional game is welcomed. He isn’t here to mess around, focusing on this camp solely without the burden of labouring, working in retail or hosting his Covid-friendly bootcamps. His successful venture into self-employment as a fitness firm’s manager has paid dividends and now it’s the big fights thick and fast that he is chasing. If you speak to 10 fighters of all abilities, they’ll tell you of world title aspirations – reach for the stars. But Collins has an amateur pedigree (Commonwealth Games 2016, Gold Coast) that backs up his subtle boasts. Maybe he can do it.
If – and when – he does, though, it isn’t to please a legion of hangers-on; Collins isn’t wired like that: “When I first got into boxing, I was way into it and I’ve been boxing for about 10 years now. It’s all I know; everything was sacrificed for boxing, school, college, Uni. I’ve been everywhere and dropped out; I’ve had multiple jobs and left them – so, boxing is all I have. It’s all I have and, as much as I love it, there’s nothing else for me. There’s been too much sacrifice for me to say, ‘Ah, knock it on the head’. It’s a way of life now. It’s all I know, so there’s no deeper meaning. This is what it will always be until I finish.
“I never do it for people. Everybody would like to be a world champion and that is my goal – I want to be a world champion, but I’d also hope to inspire some people along the way, to help them feel differently about boxing. From speaking to me, you can hear I’m not your typical ‘boxer’. You look at uneducated people, people who want to smash each other, that’s not me. Anyone that speaks to me says, ‘You’re very polite, you’re very calm, blah, blah, blah’. I like that image; I don’t want to take away from that and I don’t want to be the guy who’s shouting and swearing or getting a bad name for himself. I don’t want to be the villain; I just want to achieve as much as I possibly can and to do things the right way. Hopefully, I can be a household name for the right reason.”
Main image: Twitter @NateCollins60.