Boxing

Remembering the career of Nigel Benn

By Lee Callan: The Dark Destroyer turned professional in 1987 off the back of a 41-1 amateur career that included winning every tournament he entered in Northern Ireland, Germany and Aldershot, UK in his army boxing days (winning titles from junior-welterweight to heavyweight!).

It also included two savage wars with powerhouse Olympian Rod Douglas, the first of which Douglas winning in 1985 and the next Benn avenging the following year. He also defeated future top international representative Mark Edwards and stopped future decent pro Johnny Melfah. Most of his amateur victories came by stoppage.

By the end of '87, Benn was 11-0-0 with 11 KO's (including eight one-rounders!) and already fighting an experienced prospect in the very useful American Reggie Miller. Coming off a 16-second win, Benn was confident and big things were being said about him in the press. After struggling with Reggie's cute style, Benn unleashed his now-famous power-punching in the seventh to grab an impressive win.

Lethal left hooks, robust right uppercuts, untelegraphed overarm rights, swinging right hooks - they were all capable of shaking, dropping or flattening in devastating style. His superb natural punching leverages were something to behold.

Four highly impressive victories for a second year pro followed, against Abdul Samba, Anthony Logan and David Noel (in Commonwealth title wins showing unparalleled aggression) and the extremely useful American Tim Williams (who stopped Alex Ramos and drew Robbie Sims). Benn was now ready to take on fellow young British middleweight hopeful and WBC #3, fellow Londoner Michael Watson.

Going into the much-publicised Watson fight (held in a 'Supertent' at a park), Benn was 22-0-0 with 22 KO's (most of which in one or two rounds) and attracted American TV network NBC to cover the fight live. Nigel originated boxing arena entry that night.

The Benn-Watson fight itself exposed Benn as a wild, one-dimesional slugger as Watson tucked up tightly behind a peek-a-boo guard and allowed Benn to punch himself out - before knocking him out with a jab!

Benn regrouped, fled to Miami to live and train, changed his regime to run and spar more, and came through a rehabilitation fight with the exceptionally durable Jorge Amparo - Benn's first full-distance pro fight, winning an easy decision and showing a jab, a placed right and head, upper body and foot movement.

His next fight, in Las Vegas, was a one-round KO in which Richard Steele dragged him away from the helpless Jose Quinones.

Then came the slippery gatekeeper, Sanderline Williams. After only three years as a pro and not many rounds under his belt, Benn did good with Sanderline - who gave trouble to everyone - and got a good points win. Particularly impressive was the speed of his right hand. Nobody landed that punch on Williams as often as Benn did.

So less than a year after being exposed, an improved Benn was in world title contention and took on the ultra-tough Doug DeWitt for the newly-formed WBO title. DeWitt had gone 15 close, competitive rounds with a peak Thomas Hearns and was in the best form of his career against Robbie Sims and Matthew Hilton in his previous fights. The inexperienced Benn understandably started as underdog.

What followed was one of the most horrific one-sided beatdowns I've seen in a boxing ring. DeWitt's ear had turned BLUE after two rounds. The Hearns right hands and Hilton left hooks had been eaten up without a problem for DeWitt, but Benn's power in those punches had clear effects on Doug and he claimed a dominant and exciting stoppage World title win!

Now, the world was his oyster. From the streets of Ilford, to the streets of Belfast, to the West Ham ABC, to the London small halls, to the Big Time. Big Benn had made it!

The rest is folklore, from the one-round demolition of the fearsome Iran Barkley in Vegas, to the epic all-out war classic with Chris Eubank, to the WBC title reign that included defenses against arch-rival Eubank (in front of a reported 47,000 fans and 18,500,000 on UK TV), the dangerous Henry Wharton and slippery Vincenzo Nardiello, to the sensational triumpth over the formidable pound4pound-rated Gerald McClellan. Benn had a glittering run in the 90s.

There can be little doubt Nigel Benn would fight anyone - he fought the likes of Robbie Sims and Sugar Boy Malinga in non-title fights. He fought Steve Collins twice, a career light-heavyweight in Nicky Piper, a career cruiserweight in Lou Gent, and an Italian in Italy in Maurano Galvano. Not to mention literally the most fearful Americans out there in Barkley and McClellan, and a return with Eubank knowing the kind of severe damage Eubank was capable of inflicting.

He had proven courage, proven power - knocking out Sims and McClellan for the first time in their careers and Barkley in a round - and a proven heart in getting up to continue every single time he was knocked down.

I guess after being a soldier in Northern Ireland during the heights of 'The Troubles', the ring held no fear for him.

A true legend of British and World boxing in history. The Dark Destroyer.

Article posted on 21.04.2011



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