The ballot sheets are out again, with a selected bunch of writers having to choose who they vote for with their Hall of Fame picks. The three new names who can be voted for this time are Rafael Marquez, Mikkel Kessler and Chris John. Of these three, superb Mexican warrior Marquez seems to have a very good shot at going in in Canastota.
One fighter who, along with 31 other names, is still on the list from last time but has not yet been voted into The Hall, is Britain’s Nigel Benn. Should this simply thrilling fighter be in? Did Benn do enough to be entitled to his plaque on the wall?
Today, long after Benn’s final fight, fans on both sides of The Atlantic remain interested in the whole Benn mystique. Far more than just a slugger – although Benn’s power was indeed legendary – the former army sergeant had heart, guts, skill and a far better chin than was once thought.Let’s look back at Benn’s career highlights:
Who can forget his amazing Oct. 1988 battle with Jamaican-born Anthony Logan? Defending his Commonwealth middleweight title for the first time, Benn almost came a cropper. Decked heavily towards the end of the first-round, Benn was still shaky in the second. Under real fire and almost out of it, Benn scored the first, and arguably most dramatic, desperation KO of his career.
Known after the Logan rumble – this fight later called a “British Hagler-Hearns” – as a vulnerable big puncher Benn, refusing to change his style any, finally lost due to his hot-headedness. Going in with the accomplished Michael Watson in another Commonwealth title showdown, Benn punched himself out in the early rounds and was decked by a stiff jab in the sixth-round. Benn was embarrassed and relocated to the U.S soon after the loss.
Now realising his raw power and incredible physical strength were not enough against the elite fighters, Benn came back with a new, patient attitude. Sure, he still scored a number of quick and savage KO’s (see his Dec. 1989 KO of Jose Quinones, his second comeback fight), but Benn was also content to go the distance, as he did against Jorge Amparo and Sanderline Williams.
An up from the floor win over the iron-chinned Doug DeWitt saw Benn win his first world title in April of 1990, and a brutal one-round win over Iran Barkley saw Benn repeat his impressive American form that August. Now bigger than ever, Benn was about to meet his nemesis. Enter Chris Eubank.
Hating the eccentric, monocle-wearing Brighton man from the get-go, Benn made the mistake of punching himself out once again; being stopped in the ninth-round of a war. Once again, Benn managed to launch a fine comeback. It would be 16 fights before Benn lost another fight and he was now at his peak both mentally and physically. Quality comeback opponents Kid Milo and “Sugar Boy” Malinga were beaten, before Benn, now aged almost 30, won his second world title, this one up at super-middleweight.
Italy’s Mauro Galvano was relieved of his WBC belt (after some blatant attempts by Galvano to keep his belt, claiming the cuts he had suffered were due to intentional butts by Benn), and Benn went on to retain the crown an amazing nine times. Included amongst his victims at this time: Chris Eubank (a 12-round draw most people had Benn winning), Henry Wharton and, in his most famous, and sadly most tragic fight, Gerald McClellan.
The win over McClellan saw the best of Benn, but that fight should also have signalled Benn’s retirement. Both men went through sheer hell, neither being the same again (Gerald in particular of course). Benn fought on, defending his belt against good men Vincenzo Nardiello and Danny Perez, before he fought the tricky Malinga again; losing a 12-round split decision.
That should have been the end but Benn, by now out of bullets, had two losing fights with Irish tough guy Steve Collins. Benn quit in both fights. This is not how Benn is remembered, however. Not by a long shot.
But does Benn have a shot, as in a shot at going into The Hall of Fame one day?
Benn’s final record reads 42-5-1(35). Would you vote for him?