ON this day in 1967 in Freeport, Illinois, future middleweight world champion Gerald McClellan was born. A fearsome talent known as “The G-Man,” McClellan would rise to fame as a special fighter, but his tragic, career-ending war with Nigel Benn is what Gerald will always be most remembered for.
McClellan turned pro in 1988, his pro career coming on the back of impressive amateur wins over such talent as Roy Jones Junior and future heavyweight ruler Michael Moorer. Fast, athletic and powerful, McClellan nevertheless suffered early career setbacks at the hands of Denis Milton and Ralph Ward, both of whom out-pointed him. Just over three years into his pro career, McClellan won his first title: destroying what was left of the once formidable John Mugabi. McClellan ruined “The Beast” inside a single round, in London, in November of 1991, picking up the vacant WBO middleweight strap. Bigger wins would soon belong to McClellan.
Soon relinquishing the WBO title, McClellan challenged another fearsome banger in the form of Julian Jackson. A terrific battle ensue in May of 1993, with both men trading bombs. Eventually, after showing both heart and a solid chin, McClellan, then aged 25 and approaching his absolute prime, got the win in crushing style in the fifth round. Now the WBC king, McClellan retained three times, winning inside a round on each occasion; including a rematch win over Jackson. Then, in February of 1995, when true stardom appeared to be his for the taking, McClellan signed to fight ruling WBC super-middleweight champ Benn. Things would never be the same for either fighter.
Fans the world over will never forget the brutally thrilling yet also disturbing fight that took place in London twenty years ago. Benn, sent crashing through the ropes in the opener, clambered back into the ring and the fight and the war was on. Both men bared their soul in the name of sport/entertainment. The sight of McClellan, his mouth hanging open and his eyes blinking in uncontrollable fashion, remains poignant all these years later. Much has been written about this epic yet tragic fight, the finger of blame for what happened to Gerald pointed in many directions, yet no-one could have expected what unfolded that cold night in the nation’s capital.
Today, aged 47, Gerald has a limited life, looked after around the clock by his devoted sister, Lisa.
Here, in speaking to Boxing News just after the twentieth anniversary of her brother’s career ending bout with Benn, she explains how Gerald lives from day to day:
“Considering he has no eyesight and considering he’s still got deficiency with his short term memory, believe it or not, physically he’s doing well,” Lisa said back in March of this year.
“He’s got a good, hearty appetite and I cook good meals for him. We don’t use the wheelchair all the time; we use it when he’s out in public or has a doctor‘s appointment. But he can walk and he does walk at all other times. Also, his hearing is good. It’s mostly his short term memory problems that cause him the most issues.
“He doesn’t exactly remember [the fight with Benn], but he remembers what I’ve told him about the fight. I’ve told him about what happened that night. We often talk about it. He asks me if he got hurt. I tell him, ‘yes, you got hurt, from a head-butt.’ He asks me if it was an accident or on purpose. I tell him it was just an accident.
“After twenty years, it’s not a matter of blame. I’m so far from [thinking like that] now. In the past I have spoken out against the referee (Alfred Asaro), but none of that makes a difference to what we have to live with every day. I had resentment to Nigel Benn, but when I met him in 2007, he told me how he had come to the hospital to visit Gerald but Don King’s team told him it would be better to leave before Gerald’s family came. I realised a lot of what the media said was taken out of context. I think the media were more interested in [creating] a feud.”
Lisa says she still loves boxing. Despite what happened to the man who celebrates his birthday today, so too does Gerald McClellan.