FIGHT fans of a certain age the world over will likely never forget the tragic events that unfolded inside The New London Arena in Millwall on February 25th, 1995. One woman who will certainly never forget is Lisa McClellan. For it was the savage fight that her brother Gerald McClellan engaged in with British hero Nigel Benn that tragically left “The G-Man,” as Gerald was known, permanently disabled.
Giving her brother around the clock care ever since, Lisa, with here sister Sandra, has had to give up her own job due to a heart condition. Things have certainly been tough over the past two decades, yet Lisa says her family have remained strong. Having never ever seen the brutal fight that almost took her brother’s life (“none of us were there that night, none of Gerald’s family were there”), Lisa nonetheless is constantly asked about the fight by Gerald himself; he is still trying to comprehend what actually happened to him that night.
Today, Lisa working on a special night in March in which he brother’s career will be honoured in his hometown of Freeport, says Gerald is doing better than could be imagined physically.
Q: Talk about the benefit that is set for Gerald in March.
Lisa McClellan: “It will be on March 28th in Freeport, Illinois, where we live. It’s not so much a benefit, but a dinner to honour Gerald and his career. It will be held at the Masonic Temple, which is just near where we live. We are organising things now, we’re looking at getting a bus; all the Kronk fighters will be there we hope – all the fighters from Gerald’s era. I’ve been speaking with Stanley Longstreet, who is organising things, and Tyrone Jackson and Roscoe Hill are helping. We’re shooting for Tommy Hearns [to attend].
“I’m also trying to get in touch with Nigel Benn. A couple of people I know have been trying to get hold of him but I haven’t heard back yet. We’d really like it if Nigel could attend himself.”
Q: How is Gerald doing here in 2015? How is he doing day to day?
L.M: “Considering he has no eyesight and considering he’s still got deficiency with his short term memory, and he has trouble comprehending things, believe it or not, physically he’s doing well. 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 for when he’s out in public or if Gerald is going to a doctor’s appointment. But he can walk and he does walk at all other times. We think using the chair all the time is too easy. Also, his hearing is good. It’s mostly his short term memory problems that cause him the most issues.”
Q: You recently had a heart ailment diagnosed and had to give up work. Do you just care for Gerald now?
L.M: “I share things with my sister, Sandra. We do equal time to care for him.”
Q: Does Gerald remember the fight with Nigel Benn?
L.M: “With his short term memory problem, he doesn’t exactly remember it, but he remembers what I’ve told him about the fight and what happened. I’ve told him about what happened that night. We often talk about it. He asks me if he got hurt against Nigel. I tell him, ‘yes, you got hurt, from a head butt.’ And he asks me if it was an accident or on purpose. I tell him it was just an accident.”
Q: Have many fighters been to visit Gerald in the 20 years since the Benn fight?
L.M: “Well, Evander Holyfield came, and Joe Frazier and Gerry Cooney. But no, not too many. But we‘ve been out to functions and Bernard Hopkins came out to see Gerald at a Boxing Writer’s dinner. Roy Jones has also done some fundraisers.”
Q: Does Gerald remember that he was once a great fighter?
L.M: “Absolutely! He can tell you each fight he had, the result, the round the fight ended in and the opponent’s name. He still loves boxing and we talk all the time about it. I keep him informed and up to date, like on Floyd Mayweather and [Manny] Pacquiao. Gerald has a lot of friends who are fighters and they call him and he asks them questions about their careers.”
Q: All these years later, do you blame anyone for what happened on February 25th 1995?
L.M: “After twenty years, no. It’s not a matter of blame; I’m so far from [thinking like] that now. In the past I have spoken out about 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 for the first time, in 2007, and he told me how he visited Gerald in the hospital but that Don King’s team told him it would be better for him 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.”
Q: Do you blame boxing at all and wish it did not exist?
L.M: “No, because I still love boxing myself. We grew up with boxing, it was a big part of our family. We all went to Gerald’s amateur fights and I grew to love it. I still watch the big fights now. The last time I went to a fight in person, was the Roy Jones fight when he was knocked out by Glen Johnson, and that brought back so many memories of Gerald’s fight. I haven’t been to a fight in person since.”
Q: Can readers donate to Gerald?
L.M: “Yes, the address is: Gerald McClellan Special Needs Trust, 839 E. Wyandotte Street, Freeport, Illinois, 61032”