Writer: Kid Glove
Date:Monday July 29 2013
Yesterday (Sunday) with very little of interest on the television, I took the opportunity to watch one of the most brutal fights I’ve watched, a fight between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan.
It was a fight that enthralled the watching audience but a fight that was to have tragic consequences for the American who was trying to wrestle away Benn’s WBC super-middleweight title.
McClellan arrived in London as something of a slick operator who was quite capable of taking out his opponent with a single punch. Benn, on the other hand, had resurrected his career over in the USA and possessed punching power in both hands that could trouble anyone.
In the build up to the fight, McClellan was the clear favourite and the ringside pundits expected Benn to be blown away, some predicting a very early finish to the fight.
As both boxers made their way to the ring the atmosphere was unbelievable, the flamboyant Don King led McClellan out whilst Benn entered the ring to the sound of Big Ben. Once the formalities were over, the action was to begin in sensational style.
The first round saw McClellan go on the attack and Benn was trapped against the ropes, a flurry of punches to the top and side of the head, saw Benn slump to the canvas his body slumped the wrong side of the ropes.
Gathering his senses together, Benn pulled himself back into the ring, the French referee being very generous with the count, as the home crowd hoped Ben could survive the remainder of the round. Benn’s legs looked unsteady and he shipped some punishing blows from McClellan but didn’t go down. The bell sounded to end the round and Benn slumped on his stool, his sense still scrambled.
The second round, remarkably, not only saw Benn come out fighting on an even keel but also saw McClellan troubled by Benn ducking down low and catching the challenger with some clubbing punches. As rounds three and four came and went, Benn was not only holding his own, but also starting to push McClellan back.
The challenger may have arrived with a record for dispatching opponents but Benn was showing he had frailties in his defence. By now the noise was incessant and just as it looked as if Benn was starting to edge ahead on points. McLellan struck again. Pushing Benn back into a corner, Benn survived a barrage of punches but looked in trouble. In true Benn style, showing the courage of a lion, he attempted to catch the American with a huge swinging punch, but missed, ending up catching a blow from McClellan on the side of the head and going down onto the canvas for a second time in the fight.
Benn now had to dig deep as the fight ended the latter rounds. One lunge forward saw a mild clash of heads, Benn shrugged it off but the challenger appeared fazed by the contact. The referee urged both fighters to resume the battle and Benn was to go into overdrive. A flurry of punches saw McClellan sink to his knees only to arise as the count approached nine, but Benn was relentless and sensed the American was in trouble.
Another cluster of punches saw McClellan again sink to the canvas, it looked as if the body could take more but his heart had gone, little did we know (at the time) was desperate trouble McClellan was in. Down on one knee, the challenger stared at the referee but made no attempt to get to his feet, remaining in the same position as the count went through seven, eight, nine and ten.
Benn, to a crescendo of noise, had won, he’d won against al the odds and was jubilant in the ring taking the plaudits from all four ring posts and knowing that he’d silenced the critics. Meanwhile, McClellan was slumped in his corner, surrounded by his corner-men and a doctor. Benn was almost manic in his celebrations, blasting all those media pundits that had written him off, thanking Paul McKenna for hypnotizing him and making him believe he could emerge victorious.
Unfortunately, behind him, McClellan’s condition was worsening. The American was now on a stretcher, connected to breathing equipment and clearly far from well. Gary Newbon, in the ring as the ITV interviewer, tried to make Benn aware of the seriousness of the situation, but somehow managed to call McClellan Mike McCallum not once, not twice but thrice! With Benn still celebrating the excellent win, was still verbally buoyant as the action cut back to the studio with the proviso that we’d be given an update on McClellan’s condition later.
Sadly, McClellan’s condition was far more serious than anyone could have imagined at the time and he was never to recover from the injuries sustained that night and had to get on with his life brain-damaged, partially sighted and in a wheelchair.
In the months to come and in the aftermath of the tragic ending, questions were asked as to whether anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy and was it avoidable? Well viewing the coverage yesterday there are several pointers in the fight that suggest all was not well with McClellan from the fourth round onwards.
The challenger seemed to be trying to constantly wipe his glove across the bridge of his nose, his gum-shield was hanging out of his mouth and as the fight continued he appeared to be blinking rather a lot. Also, at the finish, you wonder whether he’d have gotten up if the count had gone on to 100, or even if he’d, due to his injury, had forgotten how to get up, such was its severity.
Of course there are those that infer none of it would have happened if Benn had of been counted out in that brutal first round, casting the finger of suspicion at the French referee. But, as we all know, Boxing is a brutal sport, accidents can happen and those that enter the ring do so knowing the possible risks.
It’s a fight that will go down in the history books as one that established Benn as one of the greats of the ring but it’ll also be remembered as the fight that showed just how brutal this sport of ours can be!
Date:Monday July 29 2013
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