History | Feb 25 2018

On This Day: Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan wage a tragic war

Nigel Benn defeated Gerald McClellan on a night many will never forget
Nigel Benn
Nigel Benn can never be as good as he once was

IT is the fight every fan of the sport must confront. Nigel Benn vs Gerald McClellan was hugely anticipated, it generated an electric atmosphere, the action was undoubtedly thrilling. But it ended in tragedy. McClellan collapsed in the ring, he could have died there. An operation removed a blood clot from his brain. After coming out of a coma he was disabled permanently, blind, almost deaf, scarcely able to walk.

As a boxer McCellan had been a force of nature. A merciless puncher, he’d ended 29 of his 31 victories inside the distance, 20 of them within the first round. He had moved up from middleweight to challenge for Benn’s title but came in a strong favourite. Benn, the “Dark Destroyer”, brought a ferocity to the ring that inspired his followers with visceral excitement. A heavy, heavy puncher who liked to fight.

McClellan however opened their first round in the expected form. Benn leant forward and the American caught him hard. He sagged on the ropes and McClellan hammered him down, hammered him clear through the strands. But Benn would not be put out of the fight. He clambered up, re-entered the ring and survived the round.