Fallen Champ McClellan to be honored Saturday

By Rajan Sharma

12/10/2007

Fallen Champ McClellan to be honored Saturday

It's been 12 years since Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan waged war in a bout that will forever be etched in boxing history. The sheer violence of their February 2005 encounter, described by author Kevin Mitchell as a "brutal, savage classic", along with its tragic aftermath ensure it will never be forgotten.

McClellan collapsed in his corner after losing via tenth round knockout, and was taken to a London hospital where he underwent brain surgery. Upon emerging from a coma, he was diagnosed with severe brain damage. Blind and nearly deaf, the cognitively impaired McClellan still requires the full-time care of his sisters Lisa and Sandra back in his native Freeport, Illinois. His ring earnings have been consumed by medical costs.

Joyous moments have been few for the McClellan family over the past few years, but Saturday night will be an occasion to celebrate. Gerald McClellan, a former WBO middleweight champion known for his tremendous punching power, will be inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame at their annual banquet in Ontario, California.

"It just makes me feel really good for him because boxing was like the beginning and the end," said Lisa McClellan, speaking by phone from Freeport. "To see him recognized for what he worked so hard for in boxing, it makes it pretty special. He was very excited and looking forward to it."

Public appearances are rare for McClellan given the severity of his injuries. There was a trip to the Boxing Writers' dinner in New York a few years ago to honor Teddy Blackburn, a photographer who has raised funds for McClellan. "The G Man" also ventured overseas earlier this year for a heartfelt reunion with Benn.

"We actually went out to England in February," said Lisa. "Nigel Benn and his agent Kevin Lueshing put on a fund raiser, we got a lot of support. It was very tough. Up until that final moment, I didn't know I could do it. It brought out emotions in Gerald I haven't seen since theĀ  injury. It was emotional for Gerald and Nigel, actually everyone there."

Gerald is doing "very well" said Lisa, when asked about his current condition. "He still doesn't have his eyesight but he's healthy and well. The only thing that's probably changed is his memory's probably a lot better than it was 3-4 years ago," she said.

He can be a handful though behavior-wise. Because of his mental disability, the former middleweight champion can be prone to mood swings and tends to "act up" sometimes around visitors. After Gerald was difficult to control on the flight back from England, Lisa had concerns about bringing him to the Hall's event but decided it was only right for "The G Man" to be present.

"Dealing with all the emotions, I was just going to go out and accept the award on his behalf. I just felt it wouldn't be fair that he missed it."

For more information on Gerald McClellan and the Gerald McClellan trust, you can visit www.geraldmcclellan.com.

For information on the WBHOF event, go to www.wbhf.org.