Bouts: Benn vs McClellan
By Anthony Evans
February 25, 1995, Nigel Benn, perhaps the most popular British
fighter of all time, repelled the formidable challenge of
American Gerald McClellan in 10 of the most thrilling, exciting
and frightening rounds ever to be contested in a British ring.
Over half a decade has passed since that fateful night at
London Arena, but the memories of that fight, and its terrible
repercussions, are too deeply etched to ever fade.
Benn, the reigning WBC super-middleweight champion, was a
3-1 underdog with the British bookmakers. American bookies
knew the destructive force that had been dispatched from their
shores and they made Benn a more distant outsider.
was the undefeated WBC middleweight king, and the manner in
which he had won and defended that title had boxing journalists
on both sides of the Atlantic calling him the most explosive
puncher on the planet. Even the most experienced boxing scribe
could not see past McClellan’s 93-second demolition
of former champion Julian Jackson – where his punching-power
seemed almost inhuman.
Benn had an intensity of pride and, perhaps most importantly
in this fight, a love for his country few could match. “No
Yank is coming over here and bashing me up in front of the
British people, my people,” repeated the champion.
possessed courage, skills and wrecking-ball power in each
hand and, after eight weeks of relentlessly pounding his body
into super-human condition in Tenerife, the “Dark Destroyer”
was ready for the fight that would define his career.
seconds of the fight, Benn took a right hand and moments later
another sent the champion staggering towards the ropes. Now
McClellan, his feet planted in a wide stance, unleashed the
punches that had swept aside Jackson and the others.
rained in blow after blow, until a final devastating right
knocked Benn through the ropes and onto the ITV commentators’
table. McClellan celebrated, Benn’s fans were stunned,
and journalists exchanged knowing glances as they reached
for their notebooks. Never before had America’s supremacy
of the boxing ring seemed so absolute.
Benn was getting up. Slowly, he clambered back through the
ropes and managed to see out the round. Sixty seconds later
he was a different man. A grim, frightening look in his eyes,
Benn set about his foe and, despite suffering a second knockdown
in the eighth, pounded his way to a 10th round victory.
fan of this beautiful, but often terrible sport, knows McClellan
suffered serious injuries during those 10 rounds and he remains
a listless shadow of his former self, requiring 24-hour care.
Benn, too, was never the same. He fought on for another five
fights, losing three of them.
and McClellan paid an awful price for giving the sporting
world one of the greatest prizefights of all time. Not even
the most callous among us would claim it was a price worth
paying, but as long as there are boxing fans those two warriors
will never be forgotten.