Nigel Benn - Great Britain's Most Exciting Fighter Of The Last 20 Years!

Nigel Benn03.09.08 - by James Slater: It seems to me, that whenever boxing experts on this side of the pond debate who was Britain's most exciting warrior of the past twenty years or so, the name Nigel Benn always comes up. And rightly so.

Undeniably incredibly exciting almost each and every time he set foot into the ring, Benn, from London, was also able to capture world titles in two different weight classes - middleweight and super-middleweight - and he reigned as a world champion, on and off, from 1990 to 1996. But this article is not about how great a fighter Benn was; it is about how ultra-exciting he was!

Benn began his pro career in January of 1987, and went on to give his paying public an array of quite astonishing and electrifying ring performances.. Priding himself on two things - giving those who paid his wages what they wanted and "having a good tear up," - Benn proved himself to be a fearless, if vulnerable, fighter. In possession of awesome punching power, but not a solid chin to go with it, "The Dark Destroyer" had just the right kind of physical resources to all but guarantee exciting fights each and every time he boxed. Blink in a Benn fight and you might miss a spectacular KO - one way or the other! In all, Benn was stopped four times and beaten a total of five times. But in nearly all of these defeats, Benn made the other guy go through hell before having his hand raised.

Indeed, Benn was a ferocious animal when in the ring, and he was very good at inflicting pain on his opponent. He may not have been as good at taking it as he was at giving it, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with Benn's guts and courage. You either have a rock chin or you do not. Benn did not. But how he made up for it with his enormous heart and guts. In any case, being slightly suspect around the whiskers only served to make Benn all the more exciting, it was part of his appeal. And during his not quite ten year pro career, Benn met some of the biggest and baddest 160 and 168-pounders out there.

Benn's Key fights, excitement-wise.

Benn Vs. Logan.

Who can forget the two-round war with Jamaica's Anthony Logan? Fighting for the Commonwealth middleweight crown, the two men put on a fight for the ages. Knocked down in the 1st round and on the verge of being stopped in the 2nd, as Logan fired away at him at will, Benn somehow pulled out a left hook that smashed into his tormentor's skull. The punch that saved Benn was launched almost from the canvas and, with all of Benn's weight behind it, the shot travelled from down at his ankle up to Logan's head and it landed flush. Had the shot missed, as it easily could have, Benn would have likely fallen clear across the ring. In taking a risk like this, whilst under severe pressure, only to come on and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, Benn proved he was something very special. A fighting attraction that the punters would pay hard cash to see do his thing.

After Britain's version of Hagler-Hearns, as one publication called the Benn-Logan fight, Nigel was a big name. More amazing brawls were to follow.

Benn Vs. Watson.

Four fights on from the Logan spectacular, Benn defended his Commonwealth belt against fellow Brit Michael Watson, a very underrated boxer at the time. What followed may have been Benn's first loss, but what a fight it was as well! Tearing at the defensive minded Watson right from the first bell, Benn looked as though he wanted to kill his rival. With every single punch thrown with huge intensity and, as Mike Tyson would say, "bad intentions," Benn had the sell-out crowd inside "The Super-Tent" (a purposely built arena put up in Finsbury Park, London) screaming themselves silly. For five rounds, Benn tore at Watson and unleashed all his power on him. But Watson was boxing a very smart fight. Beforehand he had reportedly studied the Foreman-Ali fight in great detail, and now he was doing his own "rope-a-dope." Blocking Benn's blows and avoiding others, as well as taking the odd one that crept through his guard as he fought both off the ropes and in mid-ring, Watson was letting Benn punch himself out, just as Ali had done to Foreman in 1974.

Then, with "The Dark Destroyer" all but exhausted, Watson scored a stoppage win. Something had had to give, what with the way Benn was unloading constantly. As it turned out, it was Nigel's stamina that gave. Dropped by nothing more than a stiff jab in the 6th, a shattered Benn was counted out in the act of rising. It was Watson's night, but Benn had given us another incredible fight.

Benn Vs. Barkley.

After relocating to America after the loss to Watson, Benn redeemed himself with an 8th round TKO over WBO middleweight champion Doug DeWitt. Now champion, Benn met Iran "The Blade" Barkley, again in The U.S. A one-round fight, that had enough excitement crammed into three minutes that could be imagined, followed. Benn once again jumped right on his opponent, and in this case Barkley was down within a few seconds. "The Blade" jumped back up and Benn went after him. But, once again proving vulnerable, Benn let his guard down and was tagged by a desperate Barkley. Now staggered and hurt himself, Benn was in another war, albeit a short one. The bout turned controversial seconds later, as Benn hit a still-on-the-canvas Barkley after sending him down for a second time. Finally, after not even giving Benn a talking to, referee Carlos Padilla enforced the three knockdown rule as Barkley was sent to the mat again. Benn, had another ref been in charge, could have maybe been DQ'd, but Padilla put on a poor performance. Benn, meanwhile, had once again put on a sensational and drama-packed show.

Benn Vs. Eubank.

Making his second defence against a man he publicly and (at the time) privately despised, Benn met the eccentric Chris Eubank right after he'd done away with Barkley. Another hugely engrossing fight was witnessed. Having reportedly had some trouble making 160-pounds beforehand, Benn want right after his man nonetheless. Succeeding in scoring a knockdown that Eubank claimed was a slip, Benn had also opened up a vicious cut inside Eubank's mouth - a cut that later required a number of stitches and one that forced Eubank to swallow a lot of his own blood during the fight. In terrible pain, Eubank fought one of his best fights and came on to stop a tiring Benn in the 9th round. Later calling Benn "an animal," Eubank said he'd never been in so much pain, pain that was making it very hard for him to even talk. "I need to go to the hospital now," Eubank said in the post-fight interview. Benn, with his eye completely hammered shut, would be paying a visit also. Benn later said he wanted to retire after this fight; thankfully for his many fans he chose not to.

Though Benn and Eubank would meet again, up at 168-pounds, in 1993, Nigel had only one truly incredible fight left in him. He had plenty of other dramatic fights - the second, drawn encounter with Eubank being far from a stinker - but only one more bout fought by Benn was a genuine classic. It took place on the 25th of February, 1995 and that date alone should let fight fans know which fight this article is referring to.

Benn Vs. McClellan.

Once again having regrouped after a loss, Benn, who had been defending the WBC super-middleweight title he'd won in October of 1992 against Eubank in the rematch, got back on the winning track after suffering his second career disappointment. Having drawn with "Simply The Best," Benn may have been agitated (he so wanted to beat up on Chris!), but he also retained his world title. Two successful defences followed, before Benn signed to face "The G-Man," Gerald McClellan. What followed will, in short, never be forgotten!

Benn and McClellan put on a fight the likes of which is rarely seen in a civilised age. Savage, brutal and ultimately permanently damaging, the fight held in London over thirteen years ago was one that showcased the limits of human endurance. Knocked down and through the ropes in the very 1st round, Benn appeared doomed. He somehow clawed his way back into the ring in time, only to be met by a marauding opponent. Surviving to hear the bell to end the round, Nigel Benn was about to bare his very soul - as was his challenger.

The two men battered each other mercilessly, and though at the time all British eyes were on Benn, amazed at how much he was taking and not going over, in retrospect “The Dark Destroyer” was giving almost as good as he was getting. One thing that was becoming clear, was the fact that McClellan was starting to blink in a strange manner. An ill-fitting mouthpiece was attributed as the reason, but today we know. Gerald had already suffered brain injury and his brain was unable to adequately send orders to his lungs to take in air. This fight was all that is both good and bad about prize fighting.

On the one hand, we saw two men displaying mesmerising nerve and bravery, while on the other we saw a young man in the prime of his life being slowly reduced to an invalid. To this day, I cannot bring myself to watch the fight. After going down again in the 8th, Benn, who again looked a beaten men, sent his rival to the canvas twice in the 10th round. Appearing to take a knee and decide whether or not to get back up, “The G-Man” was actually only moments away from permanent collapse. Thoroughly beaten and in a bad way that cannot even be imagined, Gerald had all but lost his very life, not merely a boxing match.

It is a sad way to end this tribute article to the fighting spirit of Nigel Benn, focusing as I have on his tragic battle with Gerald McClellan. But this fight was, as things turned out, the last of Benn’s epics. Indeed, looking back, retirement would not have been a bad idea for Nigel at this point in time. He soldiered on for another 21 months and five fights, but in reality, the McClellan war had all but finished him as the warrior he once was. We must thank Nigel for the fearlessness he showed whilst entertaining us with his fighting ability.

Nigel Benn; Great Britain’s most exciting fighter of the last twenty years!

Article posted on 03.09.2008

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