No sport personifies the fine line between personal triumph and tragedy quite like boxing does.
I write having watched the ‘Fight of their Lives’ documentary regarding the in-famous and brutal fight between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan in 1995. The latter was left with brain damage and permanent injuries, whilst Benn in his darkest hour attempted suicide.
It was clearly heartbreaking to see on camera the two meeting for the first time in 12 years, and Benn break down to see first-hand the severity of Gerald’s health.
A lot of people pointed the finger in the aftermath towards Benn for the brutal beating he handed out, which many thought was the only reason McClellan was left stricken.
This of course was not the case, and the documentary certainly opened up a wider circle including Gerald’s ‘trainer’, which I say in the loosest of terms Stan Johnson who couldn’t even wrap his man’s hands before the fight.
The French referee who couldn’t speak a word of English, who failed to see the obvious signs of something not right from the 4th round onwards, where McClellan’s gum shield hung out of his mouth as he struggled to breath and his constant blinking as the pressure on his brain became severe up until the 10th round when the fight was halted.
We also had the opinions of Barry McGuigan, and McClellan’s former trainer Emanuel Steward as well Don King who was his promoter at the time.
It was certainly a moving experience, and having heard about the Gerald McClellan Trust I donated immediately to the cause.
Here’s the link if you wish to do the same – http://geraldmcclellan.com/trust.html
I also sent a quick e-mail to Lisa McClellan, the sister of Gerald who now takes care of him in their home town of Freeport.
I received the following response earlier today:
Thank you so much for your support. God bless you.
It costs around $70,000 a year to provide the care needed to assist Gerald in his everyday life, and I am sure the family and Gerald himself will be extremely grateful for any donation you can make.
If you are interested in the fight and his horrifying aftermath, I also recommend you read Kevin Mitchell’s book War, Baby – which is available HERE.
There were some idiotic calls for boxing to be banned by some people on Twitter last night after watching the show, how ill-informed they are clearly can’t be put into words.
As one boxer Tony Bellew stated, boxers know the risks before they step into the ring but also they should trust their team with their lives. I do not think this was the case in boxing, and Gerald has obviously paid a high price for this.
I personally do not proportion any blame to Benn, who was in there to do a job and was clearly not aware of the reprocutions.
This was a tragedy make no mistake about, sadly one that was unavoidable.