Friday, July 12th 2024

Gerald McClellan

By Tom Gerbasi

This was not the way things were supposed to be.

Around this time, the talk should have been of a rematch (or possibly even a third fight) between two of the world's top fighters. The buzz around boxing wouldn't have been of Tyson or DeLa Hoya, but of McClellan and Jones. Gerald McClellan and Roy Jones Jr. were on a collision course in 1995. A Superfight between the two in 1996 would have captured the imagination of the fistic world. Two young champions, at the top of their respective games, duking it out with the intensity of Ali-Frazier, and the savagery of Zale-Graziano.

But as we approach this Thanksgiving in 1998, we are left with only what might have been. Roy Jones has moved on to the light heavyweights, bearing the cross of having no opponent to properly define his career. Gerald McClellan's situation is much more dire. Gerald is blind, unable to walk, and in need of constant care from his three sisters. Instead of a multi-million dollar showdown with Jones, McClellan was destroyed by boxing in February of 1995.

On that night in London, Gerald McClellan, the former middleweight champion rising in weight to challenge for the WBC super middleweight crown, collapsed after a brutal ten round bout with Nigel Benn. Benn, who was knocked through the ropes in the first round and ultimately saved from a first round knockout by an inept referee, fought McClellan furiously, scoring two knockdowns in the tenth which ended the fight.

McClellan, who complained to his corner after the second round that something was not right, soon fell into a coma, and surgery was immediately conducted to remove a blood clot from his brain.

Fortunately, Gerald survived, and returned to the loving arms of his sisters Lisa, Stacey, and Sandra. Lisa recently told me that "This is not a sympathy story". She said that Gerald is forced to do dishes around the house, and while he doesn't like it, his sisters are trying to give him as normal a life as they can considering the circumstances. She says that he has bad days, but that he's happy. Unfortunately, Gerald will never see his three children again. He will never see his two sons play ball, or see his little girl Forrest take dance classes.

And this alone can make us all question why we even want to watch this sport.

But in times of distress, the cream rises to the top. Re-enter Roy Jones. "Roy has done a lot. He has done more for Gerald than anyone. He has done more than other fighters who were closer to Gerald." says Lisa. Roy Jones, chided for arrogance, saddled with the crown of "reluctant warrior", has stepped up to the plate to deliver more than words for his former rival. Jones and McClellan met as amateurs, and though they were planning to step into the ring with each other, they became friends, and a mutual admiration society developed.

And Jones has not forgotten his friend.

In association with HBO Sports and Ring 8, Jones has launched a campaign to establish a trust fund for Gerald McClellan's children. This fund will help make better lives for three children who have experienced a loss that none of us can truly fathom.

On November 10th, Jones joined such boxing luminaries as Oscar DeLa Hoya, Shane Mosley, Michael Grant, Tracy Patterson, and Junior Jones, to honor Gerald. Lisa McClellan was there, as was the family of Sugar Ray Robinson. On this night the new HBO documentary, "Sugar Ray Robinson: The Bright Lights and Dark Shadows of a Champion" was premiered. As Jones spoke eloquently about Gerald and the perils a fighter faces each time he steps into the ring ("Gerald McClellan could have been Roy Jones Jr." ), we saw first hand a champion's bright lights, as he tries to help a friend who only sees dark shadows.

On this Thanksgiving, boxing fans have a chance to not only count their blessings, but to give something back to a champion who thrilled us all.

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