WHEN Floyd Mayweather returned to fight debutant Conor McGregor two years ago, some criticised Boxing News for giving it coverage. It didn’t matter that barely a word of that coverage was positive. While many boxing media outlets gave the event their full support, BN, which always has the good of boxing at its heart, continued to focus on the preposterousness of the whole affair.
My response to any criticism we received back then was that the fight was making such a nuisance of itself in the boxing world, we would have been doing the sport a disservice by simply ignoring it. It was our duty to report on the whole thing as honestly as we could, irrespective of whether we liked it or not. If every newspaper was filled only with reports about events that journalists approved of then the news media industry would serve little purpose (nor have a great deal to write about, frankly).
The reason I say all of this now is because we’ll be keeping a close eye on the developments of Nigel Benn’s return, despite the fact it is not being sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control. There should be no confusion at all that by doing so we are in any way supportive of Benn’s return. We are not.
I probably should add at this point, for the sake of total clarity, that the first fight I attended was at the NEC in Birmingham, way back in 1990, when Benn defended his WBO middleweight title against Chris Eubank. I went along to watch my favourite fighter, who at the time was Nigel Benn. Now, 29 years on, I have nothing but respect for a man who can rightly call himself one of the best boxers his country has ever produced. I loathe the thought of him getting hurt.
When it was confirmed last week that Benn will be fighting Sakio Bika, a sense of complete dread about the event set in. In fact, the more we hear about the 55-year-old’s comeback, the more concerning it gets. How anyone, even the British and Irish Boxing Authority, could govern this bout is beyond me. Bika was fighting at a good level as recently as 2017. He was world champion five years ago. He has never been stopped. He rarely finishes a bout without breaking the rules and is well-known for making life absolute hell for his rivals.
One could almost accept Benn’s comeback if, as was being discussed two years ago, it came against Chris Eubank. An exhibition against his old enemy. His old friend. A fellow old man. But Sakio Bika?
We’re told that the safety procedures for this bout will be more extensive than anything we’ve seen before. There will be a surgeon at ringside. Wow. Has there ever been a grislier image than that? Imagine for a moment that the surgeon is called into action. And if the surgeon saves a life will we then be told it was all down to BIBA and their conscientiousness regards safety? Please.
It’s been reported that Bika – who is based in Australia – knows Benn. It’s been suggested that the two will have discussed this whole fight at length and Bika will know how far he can push it. So that’s all right then. No one can get hurt. The fix is in. But, of course, it isn’t. Not with someone as ferociously proud as Nigel Benn. Nor with someone as unhinged as Sakio Bika.
At this point the best we can hope for is that Benn comes to his senses and realises – after a few weeks of training – that this is whole thing has been a terrible idea and calls it off. Failing that, the best we can hope for is an uneventful contest. One where both men realise early on that boxing is a young person’s sport. One where the fighters’ aim is way off target. One much like the third bout between Jeff Fenech and Azumah Nelson in 2008 which did nothing for either combatant except convince them to retire again immediately.
One that is quickly forgotten.
One where neither man gets hurt.
One where the surgeon isn’t required.