Benn/McClellan: A Night of Champions for a Champion

mcclellan02.03.07 - By Tim Austen: When Nigel Benn fought Gerald McClellan for the WBC Super-Middleweight boxing Championship of the World at the London Arena on February 25 1995, those watching witnessed one of the most brutal wars in boxing history. Both fighters put their lives into the fight but tragically Gerald McClellen suffered a serious injury which ended his career and left him in coma. Gerald is blind, 70 percent deaf and needs 24 hour care. Due to brain damage, his mental state leaves him in his own world with only limited understanding. His earnings from boxing have not been sufficient for the kind of support he needs. There have only been a handful of people that have helped Gerald out financially – which is shameful considering he gave so much to boxing.

Nigel made the decision that something should be done and decided that a benefit evening at Grosvenor House in Park Lane, London would be a way of raising funds for Gerald.

His close friend and agent Kevin Lueshing of Sports-Plus Promotions put the wheels in motion and called up a who’s who of British Champions past and present to come and help raise money to help a man who could no longer help himself.

Those present on the night included Frank Bruno, Chris Eubank, Alan Minter, Steve Robinson, Lloyd Honeyghan, Junior Witter, David Haye, Johnny Nelson, Billy Schwer, Iran Barkley – the list goes on. Some 1500 people came to the evening which was a sell-out; such was the support for a very worthy cause.

I had the good fortune to be one of those in attendance on what was a very emotional night. Nigel was sat with Gerald’s family which was great to see as for many years they had nothing but bad feelings towards the man who they felt had destroyed his life. They have now forgiven Nigel as they know that he has been through hell, having to live with the knowledge of what he had done to their son and brother. Gerald himself was meant to be sat alongside Nigel but when he was brought into the “Great Room” in front of so many people, the occasion got to him and he had to go back up to his hotel room. Nonetheless he was there which was wonderful to see.

Various items of boxing memorabilia were auctioned off including a WBC belt kindly donated by WBC President Jose Sulaiman and the WBC. Over $300,000 was raised by the end of the evening which will give Gerald an improved quality of life over the next few years.

In the fight itself, which was intense to say the least, Nigel was knocked out of the boxing ring in the 1st round. There has been criticism of a “long count” which gave advantage to the home fighter but WBC rules state that a boxer has 20 seconds to get back in the ring which was the case in this fight. Also, Benn was accused of deliberately butting McClellan – something I disagree with. Any butts would have been unintentional – Benn was simply not that type of fighter. After the 1st round, both men threw and landed bombs – it was as though each was trying to end the fight with a single KO punch. But as early as the 5th round, it was clear that something was wrong with McClellan – he was blinking unnaturally and hanging his gum shield out of his mouth. Perhaps if the fight had been stopped at this time the damage may have been reduced – we will never know. The fight continued to the 10th when Gerald went down on one knee at which time it was waved off. Gerald was ahead on points at the time.

Both Gerald and Nigel left something in the ring that night. Gerald paid a heavy price and Nigel too – in a different but cruel way.

Boxing is a hard game fought by hard men and sometimes there are tragic casualties.

Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan we salute you.

Article posted on 02.03.2007

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