Today In 1995: The Fight Of Their Lives – Benn Vs. McClellan

The above title borrows from the British documentary from 2011; a film that probes, perhaps as deeply as anyone or anything has ever been willing, into the story of the ill-fated fight between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan. The documentary explores what came before, during and after those ten savage rounds in London that took place 27 years ago today. Some fights are destined to live forever in the minds of those people who watched; for good or for bad.

Boxing fans of a certain age can remember where they were and what they were doing when a particular fight happened, and the McClellan-Benn fight is one such example. It’s been argued that no more brutal, punishing and disturbing boxing match ever took place in the UK – not in modern, or “civilized” times, anyway. Benn Vs. McClellan was a fight that changed lives, not only the lives of the two warriors, but of countless fans (some of which left the London Arena and were never comfortable calling themselves fight fans again due to what they had witnessed), of the referee and of the corner-men working McClellan’s corner that night.

YouTube video

McClellan suffered terrible injuries, the kind it was almost instantly known he would never fully recover from without a genuine and goodness miracle. Benn was almost a fallen warrior himself; the winner having a shadow on the brain after the fight, along with Benn collapsing just minutes after the fight had ended. Referee Alfred Asaro was heavily scrutinised and he never worked a big fight again. McClellan’s head corner-man, Stan Johnson (who replaced Emanuel Steward, who Gerald had cut ties with not too long before the Benn fight), never worked with another fighter of note. Johnson was also heavily criticised for his work in the corner, for his inability to see the distress signals his fighter was giving).

Today, Gerald, aged 54, continues to ask about the fight, with his sister Lisa, who gives the former king of the ring round the clock care, doing her best to fill in the blanks in McClellan’s mind. The fight from February 25, 1995 is freely available on YouTube (as are so many fights of course) but there are plenty of fight fans, fight writers, McClellan and Benn fans, who cannot bring themselves to ever sit through those ten rounds again. Yet the fight is remembered and so it should be; Lisa McClellan says she wants it no other way.

It’s arguable that no other big fight of the last thirty years or so so graphically shows everyone how ultra-dangerous the sport of boxing is, and always will be (despite the best efforts of superb medical staff). Two proud men get in there and they lay it ALL on the line. Often, one or both is never the same again. All fighters pay a price for being the immensely courageous beings they are. Thankfully, though, most fighters are far more fortunate than McClellan was when he and Benn both fought the fight of their lives.

No fight will remain the stuff of nightmares the way this fight has done for each and every person that tuned in that Saturday night on ITV in the UK and on Showtime in the US.