British featherweight champion Nathaniel Collins will look to continue his impressive form on Saturday night (November 18) against Zak Miller. The Scot recently spoke to Boxing News about his lofty ambitions, joining Queensberry Promotions, the inspiration of Ricky Burns, and the current state of Scottish boxing.
BN: Has 2023 been the best year of your career so far?
NC: Well, I was working it out the other day. I’ve been in title fights and 12-round scheduled fights since 2021. So, that’s over two years I’ve been fighting for titles and defending titles. It’s been a busy time. Winning the British was up there.
BN: How did it feel to win the British title?
NC: It was amazing but I’ve said it before in interviews: the British was never in my sights. I was always looking to world titles and getting quickly ranked with governing bodies. It was great to win the British but I’m looking beyond that.
BN: Is it something that you would like to win outright?
NC: I’ll take whatever opportunity presents itself. It was never something I was bothered about. Obviously, after I fight Zak [Miller], all going well – which I believe it will – I’ll only have one more fight before winning it outright. [I’ll] see what the team thinks next. If there’s another bigger fight on the horizon, I would prefer to go for that.
BN: With thirteen fights under your belt, what’s your assessment of it all so far?
NC: It’s funny because if you look at all my fights, I’ve either stopped everybody or always won by shut-out. I’ve not really put a foot wrong so far. I definitely thought I’d be further on or be more recognised and more, not respected, but a bit more in the public eye than I am just now. I’m starting to get there. It’s going well. There’s not many people at my level at 13-0 or 12-0 that have won the British title or the Commonwealth at 8-0. Hopefully everyone can start to catch up with where my career is going now.
BN: How was it that you and Queensberry Promotions got together?
NC: It was through my manager Sam [Kynoch]. I’d won the British and Sam put out some feelers to see who wanted to come on board in a promotional capacity. George Warren was like, “I’d love for that and be delighted to bring Nathaniel on board and sign him.” We went down for the first fight between Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce and had a wee meeting. It was a great experience and good to see what a big promotion is like. It was signed and sealed from there.
BN: Speaking of Zhang-Joyce 1, did you expect that result?
NC: Absolutely not. I expected Joe Joyce to power right through him as he usually does. It was a bizarre one to be watching ringside, but it was a brilliant fight. It was class to be there. I’ve never been that close to the ring before as a spectator. I’ve been to a lot of shows but to be right there ringside and surrounded by big names… it was great to get a taste.
BN: Joyce was accused of being complacent and overlooking Zhang. How do you avoid that from happening to you?
NC: It’s hard but as you get better and start beating people you feel more and more invincible. And the better names you beat the more invincible you feel. It’s [about] keeping level-headed and keeping your feet on the ground and realising that any one shot can change a fight or there’s a style that might not match up to yours. You need to treat and prepare every fight as if it’s a world title fight, as if you’re defending a world title, and as if somebody is coming for your spot.
BN: You spoke of how the British title was not part of your plans, but is headlining a show in Scotland at a big venue part of your plans?
NC: Yeah, absolutely. That’s something I’ve always spoken about and always wanted to do. Bring big-time boxing back to Scotland. I grew up on Ricky Burns. Ricky Burns’ nights at the SECC [n Glasgow] were just the best nights ever. Hopefully I can start to generate that kind of following and support in Scotland and bring shows back to the country, whether it be the Hydro or anywhere. Hampden would be cool. Celtic Park. We’ll see.
BN: Not Ibrox?
NC: Not Ibrox! To be fair, I’m not a big football fan. But my family are all Celtic fans.
BN: So, they will be hoping you headline a show at Celtic Park.
NC: Well, it was five years ago (on November 12) since my Granda’ passed away. He was the biggest Celtic fan ever. Something I always said to him was that I’ll get a fight in Celtic Park.
BN: What are your thoughts on the state of Scottish boxing right now?
NC: It’s a hard sell up here. There seems to be a lot more support for boxing in England for whatever reason. People prefer football up here. It’s very, very difficult to become a star here. Ricky was amazing. When you look at Josh Taylor, he was undisputed champion of the world and nobody really batted an eyelid. You see the English guys at the top of the tree, and they walk down the street and people know they are, they’re interested. It’s a funny sport. I don’t how you repair that; I don’t know how you solve that. There’s not enough money up here. The people who are promoters don’t want to fork out big money for bigger shows or can’t fork out money for bigger shows. So, how do you start something like that? It would take a couple of big shows to get the ball rolling.
BN: Maybe what’s needed is a purple patch of talented fighters who can make a name for themselves and then inspire others.
NC: Hopefully that’s how it goes, but I would say there’s a pretty talented crop of young Scottish fighters just now.
BN: They need a chance, though.
NC: Yeah, they need that chance and that shot. It’s hard. But if you don’t have the money to put into boxing and get these fighters big fights and experiences then when they do come up against English guys a lot of them come unstuck because the English guys have got the backing, the sponsorship, and don’t need to work. I’m British and Commonwealth champion just now and have two sponsors. It’s not an easy task and a hard sell to get sponsorship.
BN: What advice would you give a Scottish prospect who has had a few fights and are looking to follow in your footsteps?
NC: You have to be all in with it. Really impress. If you’re fighting journeymen, you need to go out and stop them; you need to catch people’s eyes. You can’t be complacent [and] boxing [to] shut-out victories, you need to be trying to stop people. That is the advice. People want to see knockouts. All I think is I want to stop this guy; I want to knock this guy out every time because that’s what people want to see. And if you can do that you’ll sell.
BN: Going back to those Ricky Burns nights, how much has he been an inspiration to you?
NC: It was funny because I got a chance to train with Ricky when I was growing up. Met him, trained alongside him, and sparred him. He was always an inspiration. His work ethic was unmatched. You can see how he made it to where he did. I was fortunate to get the chance to be around him and see what it takes to work at the top level.
BN: If you get past Zak Miller and come out unscathed, what does 2024 hold for Nathaniel Collins?
NC: Ideally, I want to be fighting for the European title off the back of a big performance here and then go on to world honours or at least world title eliminators. I don’t think I’m too far away from that. Obviously, the next few fights will tell but that’s what I’m looking at. My last four fights have all been domestic fights. I’ve come through each test. All of them have been billed as 50-50 and I’ve passed them with flying colours. It’s time for me to move forward and move on.
BN: Is there any one fight that interests you particularly?
NC: Not necessarily. Just any one of the world champions at featherweight. The scene at featherweight is bursting wide open right now. Leigh Wood is moving up to super-featherweight, Warrington’s been knocked out again, so it’s up in the air a bit. Anybody that wants it.
BN: Did you think the Wood-Warrington stoppage was controversial or did the referee get it right?
NC: In my opinion Warrington was out. The referee could have given him the minute to recover but I don’t think he would have recovered. So, it probably saved him from getting badly hurt. That’s only speculation, you don’t know. But at the end of the day, he went back to his corner and had his back turned and the ref told him to turn around and he never did. I think the ref was definitely within his rights to wave it off.