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The Forgotten Classic- Nigel Benn vs Gerald McClellan;


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15 years on - The Final Chapter

By Chris Baldwin

 

The fight itself has been effectively blackballed. ITV took the tape and locked it into their vault, never to resurface again. It never has. It appears on YouTube from time to time, but periodically finds itself removed once the powers-that-be find it. It is almost an unspoken rule of boxing lore that the fight never be mentioned; the aftermath too horrific to justify its discussion. This too is a travesty. That fight will live long in the memory of anyone who watched it live or has seen it since, fought as it was by two men with a barbarism and courageousness rarely witnessed before or since. It was one of the greatest fights of all time. Not that you are allowed to say as such.

 

Referee Alfred Asaro has come in for his share of criticism. Most of it is unwarranted. He was criticized for allowing Benn to throw rabbit punches, but McClellan threw plenty of his own. It was that kind of fight. He was criticized for allowing Benn to butt McClellan in the ninth, and he certainly should have given Gerald more time to recover, but McClellan butted Benn earlier in the fight (described by Pacquiao on Showtime between rounds as “it was a butt, but it was a good butt!” and this too has been airbrushed into history. Besides, McClellan was struggling long before the ninth round. Asaro was fairly inexperienced and overly fussy, but to blame him for Gerald’s injuries is obtuse. Asaro didn’t punch McClellan in the head umpteen times- Benn did, along with Julian Jackson before him. It was an accumulation of these punches caused the injuries.

 

For Nigel Benn, although he was not to know it, his momentous triumph was to be the beginning of the end. He struggled to come to terms with the knowledge of what had happened and his decline in the ring was marked and steep. He made two more successful defenses of his title before, shorn of his killer instinct, he lost widely on points to Thulani Malinga in Newcastle in March 1996. A shell of his former self, he then lost twice to Steve Collins, the second time after quitting on his stool, and promptly retired.

 

Outside the ring, things were no better. Tormented by demons, Benn slid into a deep depression, culminating in a suicide attempt in Streatham Common, South London, in 1999. Rich and famous, Benn had everything he had always wanted but felt he had nothing. Somehow he survived downing a bottle of sleeping tablets and booze, made his way home and duly found God. The Dark Destroyer was banished forever. His faith gave him a path in life, and he moved to Majorca with his family, sold all of his boxing memorabilia to charity, and became a Christian preacher.

 

It is to the enduring credit of the medical staff, and the incredible physical condition of McClellan himself, that Gerald ever made it back to his sister Lisa and the rest of his family in Freeport. Return he did, but the chiseled, ferocious warrior who terrorized the best boxers in the world was no more. There was to be no repeat of the ‘happily ever after’ to which another fallen gladiator, Michael Watson, was lucky enough to obtain. When McClellan was discharged to the care of his family, he was completely blind, 80% deaf and could no longer walk unassisted. His condition has improved slightly in the fifteen years since tragedy befell him, but he is still a pale shadow of the man he once was.

 

Lisa McClellan has borne the brunt of caring for her brother, and the strain at times has shown. Unsavoury headlines in the immediate aftermath of the bout claimed that she had ‘wanted Benn dead’, and she later found herself having to face claims by others that McClellan, no angel outside the ring, was heavily involved in dog fighting and other minor criminal behaviours. It has to be noted that these claims have never been effectively disproved.

 

More alarmingly, Lisa has charged our sport with forgetting about her brother. It is a charge well made. The truth is that most of boxing took leave of Gerald even before he had been discharged from hospital. Her criticism of promoter King, has been vehement, wide-ranging and largely accurate. Gerald’s medical bills, which have run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, have been her sole responsibility as the money McClellan made in his career was used up long ago. Incredibly, his purse for the Benn bout was a paltry $62,920.75 after deductions. It hardly seems much for a life.

 

Some fighters have rallied round. Old amateur foe Roy Jones, who seemed profoundly moved by the tragedy which befell his friend, has visited a number of times and made financial contributions. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier also made the effort to raise a contribution for their fallen comrade.

 

Most poignantly, Benn himself was enraged by what he saw as the mass desertion of his sport from a man who needed them more than most:

 

“Where are these multimillionaires that were with him at the time?' 'Where are they now that he's paralysed, blind and 70 per cent deaf? Where are they now?' Eh? Where are they?' 'They drop you and they forget all about you”.

 

 

 

The result was a charity night held to raise money for McClellan at Grosvenor House, London, in February 2007. Lisa accepted an invitation on her brother’s behalf and both attended. It was the first time that Benn had come face-to-face with the man who had defined both his boxing career and indeed his life. He was understandably apprehensive:

 

“I don't know. One of the last things I remember reading about the fight in one of the tabloids was, "We want Benn dead, we want his money." You know what? That's 12 years ago. I've grown up since then. And so have they, I hope. His sister, Lisa, I want her to know that we're doing this to help her brother. Nothing else.

 

'Just one thing I want to say to you: this is nothing to do with me or Kevin. Nothing. It's to do with God. All these other professional boxers, who's come out of the woodwork to help him? How many have really gone out there? I just want to help him, that's all I want to do. It seems to be selling well, so we'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope we raise a lot of money for him.”

 

Thankfully, the Night of Champions, for a Champion, did make some money. The turnout was good, with Eubanks, Calzaghe, Hamed, Barkley and James Toney among the boxing luminaries who paid the £150 and made the effort. The event was more respectful than celebratory, though, as perhaps was befitting the solemnity of the cause.

 

Unfortunately, not a lot seems to have happened since. And those medical bills just will not pay themselves.

 

It is now exactly fifteen years to the day since the fight that took Gerald McClellan from our sport. For some, it is still too soon to talk about what happened. For others, it is too long. Whichever your take, at least you should remember. For all he gave to us fans of the sport, he deserves at least that.

 

If you would like to make a donation to Gerald McClellan, you should send it to:

 

The Gerald McClellan Estate, Fifth Third Bank, PO Box 660, Freeport, IL61032.

 

http://www.fightbeat.com/article_detail.php?AT=737

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"The fight itself has been effectively blackballed. ITV took the tape and locked it into their vault, never to resurface again. It never has. It appears on YouTube from time to time, but periodically finds itself removed once the powers-that-be find it. It is almost an unspoken rule of boxing lore that the fight never be mentioned; the aftermath too horrific to justify its discussion."

 

Can anyone offer up any insight on this fight. Why was it blackballed?

Sad story to say the least and then too, to hear about the demons Benn faced...

 

Would love to hear if anyone has anything to say about it.

Who saw the fight first hand?

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The fight is effectively blackballed due to the injuries sustained by McClellan.

 

The writer though has a wierd revisionist attitude towards the referee, and his schoolboy type journalism saying it wasn't the ref who hit Gerald but Benn, is stupid to say the least.

 

The fight could have easily been over in the first round, Benn was hurt when he got back in the ring, with more than 2 minutes remaining of the round, but the idiot ref kept pulling McClellan off, and basically stopped him from making a sustained attack for the rest of the round.

 

Obviously no one can say for sure, but if the fight had been stopped in the first in favour of McClellan, maybe both guys could have gone on to better things. Benn because he would have still had that killer instinct, and Gerald for obvious reasons.

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I saw the fight live and it was one of the best fights of the 90s but it's a real shame it ended the way it did. Not just because of the loss of life but also because it took away the careers of two boxing legends. Mclellan was a p4p ranked guy at the time and was a punching monster and would've gone on to do bigger things, win or lose. And Benn, like many boxers who are involved in a fight where the opponent dies, lost his edge after the fight. I've read a lot of boxers who lose the passion for boxing after an opponent of theirs dies after a bout. Benn and Eubank were never the same again after the Watson and Mclellan bouts. Lupe Pintor is said to have wanted to retire after Johnny Owen died in the ring with him but Owen's family told him not to. I don't think boxers take things like that easily. It must be a horrible feeling and afterall, boxing is a sport and these fighters have a great deal of respect for each other.
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I saw the fight live and it was one of the best fights of the 90s but it's a real shame it ended the way it did. Not just because of the loss of life but also because it took away the careers of two boxing legends. Mclellan was a p4p ranked guy at the time and was a punching monster and would've gone on to do bigger things, win or lose. And Benn, like many boxers who are involved in a fight where the opponent dies, lost his edge after the fight. I've read a lot of boxers who lose the passion for boxing after an opponent of theirs dies after a bout. Benn and Eubank were never the same again after the Watson and Mclellan bouts. Lupe Pintor is said to have wanted to retire after Johnny Owen died in the ring with him but Owen's family told him not to. I don't think boxers take things like that easily. It must be a horrible feeling and afterall, boxing is a sport and these fighters have a great deal of respect for each other.

 

I wanted to ask you that were there, what has been influential the referee on what happened ?

 

Thank's in advance !!!

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  • 2 weeks later...
I saw the fight live and it was one of the best fights of the 90s but it's a real shame it ended the way it did. Not just because of the loss of life but also because it took away the careers of two boxing legends. Mclellan was a p4p ranked guy at the time and was a punching monster and would've gone on to do bigger things, win or lose. And Benn, like many boxers who are involved in a fight where the opponent dies, lost his edge after the fight. I've read a lot of boxers who lose the passion for boxing after an opponent of theirs dies after a bout. Benn and Eubank were never the same again after the Watson and Mclellan bouts. Lupe Pintor is said to have wanted to retire after Johnny Owen died in the ring with him but Owen's family told him not to. I don't think boxers take things like that easily. It must be a horrible feeling and afterall, boxing is a sport and these fighters have a great deal of respect for each other.

 

I wanted to ask you that were there, what has been influential the referee on what happened ?

 

Thank's in advance !!!

 

Sorry, Crusader. I didn't mean i saw it inside the stadium, i meant on TV. LOL. I remember, i was 12 at the time and it was the last fight, i think, i saw before moving to France in the summer of 1995.

 

It was certainly one of the best bouts in the history of the Britain. And it certainly affected Benn and he was never the same again. I don't think any boxer is after a permanent injury is inflicted on an opponent in the ring.

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