NIGEL BENN is 55 years of age and ready to enter a boxing ring again.
Twenty-three years after his last pro fight, Benn will, according to World Boxing News, compete in a 10-round fight at the Resorts World Arena in Newcastle on November 23.
It’s not yet known which governing body will licence Benn, but WBN are led to believe his opponent could be a fellow former world super-middleweight champion. And one name in the frame is one-time WBC champion Sakio Bika of Cameroon.
Now 40, Bika is remembered for giving Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward tough, physically demanding fights, and last boxed professionally in October 2017. He is based in Australia and has previously spent time in Benn’s gym out there. He could, for this reason, be deemed an obvious and straightforward appointment as far as opponents go.
The concern, though, is not with Bika but with Benn. The ‘Dark Destroyer’, after all, has nothing left to prove as a fighter – to us anyway – and, in an ideal world, should be nowhere near a boxing ring, in competitive action, at 55 years of age. His son, Conor, is making waves as a pro and, and for a time Nigel seemed content and happy to again be living the boxing journey vicariously through his offspring. Or so we thought.
Maybe, though we say he has nothing left to prove, we’re all missing the point. Maybe Nigel Benn, in deciding to launch a comeback at 55, isn’t so much proving something to us but proving something to himself.
And if that’s the case, who are we to argue? It’s his body, his mind, his life.
Anthony Joshua has made no excuses for losing to Andy Ruiz Jnr on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, New York, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t willing to offer some on his behalf.
There have been plenty in the aftermath, ranging from sparring knockouts to panic attacks, and even Joshua, so convinced something went wrong that night, has recently attributed Ruiz’s success to a “lucky punch”, an excuse of sorts.
Rob McCracken, his coach, isn’t the type to make excuses but has mentioned the c-word – concussion – and does believe a concussion suffered during the bout ultimately led to Joshua’s downfall and the relinquishing of his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belts.
“I know him better than all these experts who virtually don’t know him or have met him once or twice so I knew he was concussed and I’m trying to get him through a few more rounds, one round at a time, and see where he’s at,” McCracken told the BBC. “Can he recover? Can he get back into this?’
“But he was glazy-eyed from when he got caught with that initial shot in round three and he carried that with him up until the end. It’s a nightmare situation, pro boxing is deadly and you’re in the corner with a heavyweight not responding as he should.”
It’s less an excuse, more a fact, a soundbite issued by someone who has been there and done it and will know fully well that concussions are both serious business and commonplace. They are not excuses nor reasons to end a fight.
In fact, rather than scaremongering, criticising McCracken or condemning boxing as a dangerous sport (tell us something we don’t know), the thing to take away from these quotes is that Andy Ruiz can clearly whack and whacks hard enough to disconnect Anthony Joshua from his senses.
That’s a concern going into their rematch on December 7 in Saudi Arabia and it should give Ruiz plenty of belief that he can now do the same again, either with a left hook, the shot that initially wobbled Joshua, or the overhand right that ultimately finished him off.
However, if Joshua’s concussion was something picked up before fighting Ruiz in New York (say, in sparring, as rumoured), the situation can be viewed a little differently. In that case, Joshua should never have been allowed to go through with the fight in the first place. (Or at least should never have been expected to perform at his best.)
As for the inevitable safety furore which attaches itself to articles like the one in The Sun, it’s best just to ignore. After all, if fights were stopped every time one of the two boxers suffered a concussion, few would last very long and there would be no reason for anybody to stick with a fight beyond the opening exchanges.
Not only that, many great careers would have been different.
Carl Froch, for example, one of Rob McCracken’s own, would never have defeated George Groves in November 2013 had concerns regarding concussions led to him being pulled out in the opening rounds of that one. Because, having been dropped heavily in the first round, and hit with everything Groves had for the next five or six , Froch was functioning solely on autopilot, lost in a fog of fists coming at him, and trying desperately to fight his way through it and see clearly again.
Then, in round nine, he did. Somehow, while concussed and confused, ‘The Cobra’ turned it around to produce one of the finest comebacks witnessed in a British ring. It remains, too, an example of why we continue to watch – the excitement, the momentum shifts, the uncertainty, the damage – and why fighters continue fighting when most would stop.
As strange as it sounds, if you remove the damage, you remove the essence of the sport. Scrap that. You remove the sport entirely.