In the world of boxing, where mismatches and padded records are standard operating procedure, rarely does a fight make you ask yourself whether the sport is beauty or savagery. But there are some fights that capture the hearts and minds of people to the point where tears fall down their cheeks and the echos of their emotions are heard a decade later. Boxingtalk pays homage to Gerald McClellan and Nigel Benn and the masterpiece they gave us exactly ten ago. McClellan entered the ring in London with the assignment of picking up Benn's WBC super middleweight title en route to creating a superfight with Roy Jones Jr. Benn entered as a heavy fan favorite in England and desired to enhance his own reputation around the boxing world.
In the first round, McClellan knocked Benn out of the ring. It appeared to be business as usual for McClellan,who had knocked out 20 in the first round. The punches Benn absorbed made one wonder how he ever made it through that first round. His heart would not allow his name to be added to the list of first round knock out victims McCellan had built.
Over the next few rounds Benn worked on the defensive while McClellan pounded on him trying to collect another KO and another world title. Both gladiators were landing bombs. Forcing their will upon one another. By the middle of the fight, both dawned a mask that showed the brutality of the contest. In the sixth round Benn took control of the fight, but the fiery exchanges continued to ensue. Benn seemed to have moved past the effects of almost getting knocked out at the opening stanza and McClellan was showing the signs of fatigue that come with going into the latter rounds for the first time.
In the eighth round McClellan made his last stand knocking down Benn. Benn made it back to his feet and his heart carried him through another round.
Round nine saw the most fateful moment in the fight. The two slammed heads together with McClellan getting the worst of it. Gerald went down to his knees from the sudden impact. After McClellan got up and the fight resumed, but it was clear that it was only a matter of time before McClellan tasted defeat for the first time. Benn sensed McClellan was hurt and applied pressure towards the challenger's little defense. McCellan would collapse to his knees from the pressure of the assault being waged upon him. He was instructed to rise and moments later a right hand sealed his fate. He sunk to his knees again once again and the fight reached it's conclusion.
On the surface it appeared that Gerald had quit. That his merciless attitude inside and outside the ring could not sustain a true fight. Words may never be able to express how wrong that intial appearance . After McClellan returned to his corner he collapsed and chaos would ensue as the ringside doctors gave Gerald oxygen, and carried him from the ring.
Hours after the fight, McClellan was fighting for his life. Emergency surgery removed a blood clot from his brain. He remained in a coma for 11 day. Benn would go to the hospital as well having MRI's performed on him. Benn would discover he suffered from a shadow on his brain. Benn would go on to say that his body shivered from the pain of the fight for days.
This fight produced such artful brutality it defies description. No description of the carnage left in the ring that night could do it justice. Many called for a ban on boxing following. Many asked questions as to how the tragedy of Gerald McClellan could happen. Was it the punches behind the head Benn would throw while in the clinches, or the headbutt in the ninth round which the referee didn't allow time for McClellan to rest. Was it the indomitable spirit of both men to win the fight? At the end of the day, none of us really know the answer.
Their fight was one for the ages. Benn's popularity grew to being one of England's most popular fighters and sports figures to this day. As for Gerald McClellan, he sits in a darkness he will never emerge from. As a result of the brain damage suffered in the battle, to he is blind, partially deaf, and suffers from short term memory loss. His demeanor has changed to being a humble submission man. He is in need of constant care from his two sisters, Lisa and Sandra. Even through all the suffering Gerald has gone through he still says, "Do I like boxing? I love boxing. Boxing is my whole life."
In the aftermath of their great battle Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan put their names among the boxing immortals. Many choose to only remember the tragedy that followed and forget it was the type of performance from both men that makes one say, this is why I love boxing. Their ring legend and legacy will be forever linked to that fateful night on February 25, 1995. If you would like to contribute to the Gerald McClellan Trust, you can mail a check to: Gerald McClellan Trust, c/o Fifth Third Bank, P.O. Box 120 Freeport, Ill., 61032