British great Nigel Benn caused something of a stir earlier today, when he informed BBC Sport that he had agreed, even finalised, a third fight with Irish warrior Steve Collins; the man who twice defeated Benn, back-to-back, sending “The Dark Destroyer” into retirement in 1996.
Benn said that he and Collins, the pair of them in their early 50s, had agreed to fight a third fight in October or November of this year – some 21 years after they last met.
“It’s about the final chapter. It’s about closure,” Benn said. “I was going backwards and forwards with Chris (Eubank, who Benn also wanted to return to fight again) and I thought ‘I wouldn’t have a problem with Steve.’ So I asked him if he wants to fight. He said yes, no mucking about.”
It seems, then, as though Benn, one of the most exciting and brilliant British fighters of the 1990s – a decade he really helped to light up with his classic wars with the likes of Gerald Mclellan, Iran Barkley, Doug DeWitt, Eubank and others – is desperate to fight again. But already, comments from The BBB of C seem to make it doubtful the two will be permitted to box one another for a third time.
“The only age limit we have is you’ve got to be over 18,” Robert Smith, head of The BBB of C said. “However, the older you get, the more unlikely it is you’re going to be granted a license. We haven’t had any applications from Nigel Benn or from Steve Collins for a boxer’s license.”
So, should Benn, 53 and Collins, a year younger, be given permission to box again should they actually apply for a license? We’ve seen veteran fighters, either close to the age of 50 or even older, box before – see Larry Holmes, age 52, against Butterbean, and Azumah Nelson and Jeff Fenech who met for a third fight when way past their best – but never in the UK, where the safety of boxers seems to be taken more seriously than elsewhere.
Benn is in fantastic physical shape, judging by the recent photos of him anyway, and Collins has kept himself in trim. But shouldn’t their glory days – and they truly were glorious – stay where they are, in the past? Neither great fighter should suffer the indignation or the embarrassment of being hurt in the ring at this stage in their lives. It would be even worse if either legend hurt or embarrassed the other.