On February 25th 1995 one of the most enthralling yet tragic fights in a British Boxing ring took place against one of Britain’s finest ever Middleweight fighters of my generation The Dark Destroyer Nigel Benn , who was the WBC Super Middleweight World Champion of the World and Gerald Mcclellan from Illinois USA, who was considered the best Pound for Pound fighter of his time. Benn was not given much of a chance by many boxing pundits (including our own) of lasting the distance, let alone winning back the title. The fight took place in the bear pit of the London arena in front of a sell out audience and had one of the highest TV ratings for a title fight in the decade. It was hyped to be a mega fight with both boxers promising fireworks and knockouts. They were not wrong.
In round 1 both fighters immediately clashed and threw bomb after bomb at each other and within the first minute and a half McClellan knocked Benn clean out of the ring and he looked finished. He clambered back in through the ropes and took the count, much to the surprise of the fans and Mcclellan and managed to get through the first round. At this point it was clear that Benn was determined to dig very deep and fight for his future and his life. The fight continued for 8 more rounds with some of the hardest hits I have ever seen in any ring around the world and both fighters taking and receiving each others punishment. From round 5 or 6 though Mcclellan had his mouth piece out and was clearly having major problems with his airway and breathing.
Round 10 came and this was the first time Gerald Mcclellan had ever gone into this round as a fighter, due to the fact that he usually despatched all his past opponents in the first few rounds. Benn was his first serious opponent who was prepared to do anything to win. The bell sounded and the 2 fighters came out again with Benns fans going completely wild with what they were witnessing and it was apparent that one of the fighters would have to knock either out for a win. Benn came in and threw bomb after bomb at McClellan until the American was punched to the floor for the first time in his professional career. His face was of someone in a great deal of distress and confusion as the French Referee Alfredo Alfaro started to count him. Mcclellan got up as the true warrior he was only to be hit cleanly again by Benn and he was counted out whilst resting on his knee and staring at his own corner.
Benn immediately jumped around the ring jubilantly as Gerald staggered to his corner and collapsed into the arms of his trainer and was laid out on the floor as doctors rushed to assist him. Gerald McClellan received a blood clot on his brain and was taken immediately to hospital. The rest unfortunately is history.
The reason why I have written about this fight is not to glorify what happened to Gerald Mcclellan, but to remember what happened on this fateful night. ITV showed the amazing documentary called “the fight of their lives’ which had some never before seen footage before, during and after the fight in 1995. The fight has never been shown again on TV due to the truly graphic nature of the fight and the very unfortunate and tragic ending. It showed Nigel Benn who I know was so affected by what happened to his opponent that night he never wanted to truly hurt anyone else in the ring by way of knock out, which he never did. Nigel was never the true Dark Destroyer we all knew and respected as one of the most talented and exciting fighters Britain ever had. There will never be a fighter like him ever again. Nigel has since become a born again Christian which is directly linked to his fight with Mcclellan.
Gerald McClellan has been permanently damaged by the injuries he received that night and requires 24/7 care from his loving family and is living in his home town in the USA. His care has cost everything he had ever earned as a professional prize fighter and now receives donations from around the world. It has been reported that Don King and Frank Warren donated half a million dollars to him after the fight and there has also been benefit dinners in support of Gerald. One of those was lead by Nigel where the 2 men met for the first time since the fight. This scene was one of the most emotional things I think I have ever seen on TV and it showed how affected not only Gerald was, but Nigel who was clearly upset when he finally met his old opponent at the fund raising event which raised £200.000. If you didn’t get a chance to see the documentary I would recommend you see it as it really is something quite special.
I remember watching this boxing match live in 1995 as well as countless times on dvd and its something I will never forget as being one of the most unbelievable spectacles of true fighting spirit that I, and many other fight fans will ever see. You can get a copy of this fight in full with British or American commentary from boxingdvdspecialist.com along with the documentary.
Gerald Mcclellan has a website where you can make a donation to his trust. The link is listed below