Gerald McClellan Thread, Vids, Articles, etc....Post Em...
Gerald McClellan Thread, Vids, Articles, etc....Post Em...
Jul 24 2010, 05:45 PM
Group: Team BU
Joined: 8-December 04
Member No.: 1,253
Twelve years ago, Nigel Benn won a boxing match of rare brutality that left Gerald McClellan permanently paralysed and blind. The victor was scarred, too, but Benn has turned his life around since a suicide attempt. This month he meets McClellan for the first time since their fight, at a dinner to raise funds for his broken opponent
Just for a moment, the old anger flares as Nigel Benn gets ready for what will probably be the toughest fight of his life. He is in his mansion overlooking the Costa de la Calma in Majorca but the prospect of a reunion in London in two weeks time with Gerald McClellan induces anything but serenity in his soul. It has been 12 years since they met for the first time, 12 years since they nearly killed each other in a London ring.
'Where are these multimillionaires that were with him at the time?' Benn asks. 'Where are they now that he's paralysed, blind and 70 per cent deaf? Where are they now?'
It is a fair question. Don King, who promoted their fight, will not be there. Nor will any of the managers who made money from McClellan on the way up. Frank Warren, who helped King, will be there. And a lot of fine boxing people will have shelled out their money to help McClellan, who has pretty much nothing left of his earnings. Benn made £700,000 for beating McClellan, which went some way to sorting out his tax problems. McClellan's final cheque, after all deductions, was $62,920.75 (then worth about £40,000). The promoters, managers, ITV, Showtime, the sponsors: they did pretty well.
Benn insists with the impatience of an aggrieved man: 'Eh? Where are they?' The repetition of the challenge will be familiar to those who remember Benn at his Dark Warrior best, a confrontationalist of frightening intensity. He is more contemplative now, but old instincts do not fade easily.
'They drop you and they forget all about you. I just want to show people that God is real. God is greater than all of us, otherwise I would not be doing this.'
Benn, once one of the hardest boxers to manage, has a new corner man. He has been devoted to God since he tried to end it all late one night on Streatham Common in south London eight years ago. He sat in his flash car, crying. He had everything and he had nothing. He had kept his money and his health, but he wondered why he could not break the cycle of hurting those who loved him. There had been so many flings, orgies, lies, so much drinking. He washed a handful of sleeping tablets down with wine and waited for death. It did not come. Against all odds, he made it home to his wife Carolyne and fell into a heavy sleep. Two days later, he emerged, chastened and determined to change.
Benn is now a born-again preacher in Majorca with a Sunday-morning congregation of 40 or so. He wants to preach four times a week and build a church. He has found a sanctuary at last, but there is one final piece of business to attend to. On Saturday 24 February, Benn and McClellan will meet at a dinner at the Grosvenor House hotel organised in the American's honour. It will not be the usual reunion of old adversaries. There will be no back-slapping reminiscences, no reruns of left hooks and right crosses. The respect will be understood, but it will be muted in more ways than one.
How will he handle it?
'I don't know. One of the last things I remember reading about the fight in one of the tabloids was, "We want Benn dead, we want his money." You know what? That's 12 years ago. I've grown up since then. And so have they, I hope. His sister, Lisa, I want her to know that we're doing this to help her brother. Nothing else.'
For years, Lisa refused to have anything to do with Benn. Last year, a British TV director, Patrick Collerton, went to see her and Gerald. They went with the brief of converting a book I had written on the fight into a documentary that would raise money for the crippled fighter. From there, negotiations fanned out a little, culminating in this dinner. It took a lot to persuade Lisa that it was worth doing. There was much residual hostility but Kevin Lueshing, Benn's agent, and a hustler of the old school, pulled all sorts of strings to make it happen.
'Just one thing I want to say to you: this is nothing to do with me or Kevin. Nothing. It's to do with God. If God had not put this in my head, I would not have done it. It's for the ultimate glory of God, not for me or Kevin. Let me make that absolutely clear. If I'd done it for any other reason it would have been all about deadwood. And deadwood means all about my glory. That's what it boils down to.
'Pray to God that the dust has settled and we can let sleeping dogs lie. It's taken a young man from England to think about this. All these other professional boxers, who's come out of the woodwork to help him? How many have really gone out there? I just want to help him, that's all I want to do. It seems to be selling well, so we'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope we raise a lot of money for him.'
So far, the only American boxers making the trip are James Toney and Iran Barkley - but, to be fair to the boxing fraternity there, several fighters, including his old friend Roy Jones Junior, have raised money for him. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali have been prominent too. Nothing is clear-cut in the fight game.
For Benn, meeting McClellan again will be tougher than for anyone else. They took part in the most ferocious battle most of us at ringside that night had ever seen, or ever cared to see again. It went 10 rounds, with both men seriously hurt, McClellan, breathing and blinking heavily, finally taking the count, on one knee, before collapsing in his corner.
On the 24th, Benn will stand in front of McClellan, nervously no doubt. McClellan will sit. More than likely he will be in his wheelchair and Benn will take his limp hand, look into his half-dead eyes and whisper softly into ears that absorb maybe a third of what is directed at them because of a brain all but closed down. It will be a little like how they last communicated, as they lay side by side in the London Hospital, Benn immobile with the hurt of McClellan's punches from a few hours earlier and doctors working feverishly to save the American's life.
'Sorry,' is what Benn said to McClellan then, kissing his eyes, although he knew he could not see or hear him. Now he will do it all over again, in a much more public way. It will be a qualified apology. Benn is sorry for what happened, but not for the fight. It was what they did. He knows McClellan would feel the same way.
'There are much worse sports than boxing,' he says. 'I haven't gone totally over to the other side! Some people go too far. I just look at where God wants me to go.'
Benn returns to God time and again during our conversation. His fervour might put some off, but he is not bothered. He was never one for books, now he quotes liberally from the Bible. It informs every move in his life - even buying a car. He wanted to change his six-litre Cadillac guzzler for something greener, so the family knelt down and prayed. God told him to get a Mitsubishi Colt. Although, as he says, he still has the Porsche.
Carolyne and their children have saved Benn from himself. 'I'll be honest with you, Carolyne's my knight in shining armour. If it wasn't for her, I guarantee you I'd be six foot under or in a mental hospital. I wanted something more out of life, though, because the sort of life I was leading I didn't want no part of it. It was affecting my wife, my family, my mum and dad. I got caught up in that world and it's only now that I fully understand what I was going through. It's weird but I look at myself now and I feel content.'
Is he still DJing?
'No, don't be silly! How can I go, "Praise God" and then go off to the nightclub where it's like Sodom and Gomorrah? It's funny how I ended up living in Majorca, anyway. After living in Miami for three years, LA for 18 months, I thought, "We gotta get a holiday out of this." So we came here. After the first six months God said, "I have plans for you." And I thought, "Why me, Lord? I'm not a member of any church. Why are you using me?" I've got someone in my church here, a physics teacher, who'd been a Christian for 27 years. And God said, "I don't want to use him." He said, "No, I want the Dark Destroyer." He knew that people would sit up and listen to me.'
And they do. Benn was always impressive in front of a microphone, emotional and articulate.
'You know what? I've had a revelation. I was one of the biggest sinners. I was Satan's right-hand man! And whatever my temptations were then, they are still there, right there outside my door. People who say they are not are lying. Within my congregation we have alcoholics, people on drugs, people with marriage problems. And I say to them, "Don't focus on me. I will fail you. Not intentionally. But I will fail you. Focus on Jesus." Also, I want to be able to pray to Jesus and laugh. I want laughter in the church. God does have a sense of humour, mark my words.'
For McClellan's sake, it would be nice if Jesus were keeping a divine eye on proceedings at Grosvenor House, too. The final equation is, after the emotion and the goodwill, McClellan could do with the money. 'By the grace of God,' Benn says, 'we can just make some money for a fallen comrade.'
The dinner has attracted a stellar array of boxing and showbusiness luminaries - among them Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, Frank Bruno, Joe Calzaghe, Junior Witter, Naseem Hamed, as well as cast members from The Bill and EastEnders - prodded to fork out between £100 and £150 a ticket.
It has been nearly 16 years since McClellan first came to London. He was young, lean, handsome and extremely dangerous. On the undercard of a promotion at the Royal Albert Hall in November 1991, the American knocked down John 'The Beast' Mugabe three times in the first round to win a version of the world middleweight title, then went home as quietly as he had arrived.
Four years later, he returned. He was, if anything, more fearsome. And frustrated. He had not been given the fights that would make him rich and famous. Mike Tyson was in prison and McClellan was going to be the next big thing in boxing. But he boxed for Don King, with whom he had an acrimonious relationship. If he could beat Benn, King promised him, he would get to fight Roy Jones Junior, then the acknowledged best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Paranoia ruled: Lisa was convinced (and still is) that King wanted her brother to lose; Benn was equally adamant he was being set up as the losing patsy. Neither fighter really won.
Both have changed, of course, but McClellan dramatically more so. Once he had been brought back from his coma, had his brain restored to minimum working order and been shipped back to the small Illinois town of Freeport, 80 miles from Chicago, McClellan was doomed to spend the rest of his life as a barely recognisable version of the man he had been.
Some say boxing is a religious experience, moving men with bewildering speed between life and death. Others say it's about belts and money and fame. Of the two men who entertained us that night in '95, only Benn can tell us now what he thinks. Or, more accurately, Deuteronomy 30:19.
Benn reminds me: 'The scripture says, "I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing." I chose life.'
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