By Alexander Burton: Roaring crowds. The ferocious sound of victory is absorbed by one Champion, while the distant echo of defeat is soon lost for the other. Quietly replaced by an agonizing fight for life. 25 February 1995 a 13 yr old sits in his parent’s front room trying to get exited about the forthcoming fight and share in the magical spell that fight night ominously casts over his father and elder brother. For the past week he has listened to the two debate the outcome of the clash of champions.
The young boy has tried to fain interest and partake in the unique bond shared between the two, but always feeling like an outsider looking in, he is unable to fully comprehend there affection for the sport of boxing.
The favourite a brash, tough unmovable American with a reputation for devastating power and an unrelenting desire to win is highly favoured by not only the bookies, and so called experts but also (although somewhat reluctantly) by my father and brother. The American and current middleweight champion of the world has traveled to my hometown of London, to face our fighter and super middleweight champion of the world. Although the Londoner possess courage it appears to most that he’s bitten off more then he can chew and is swimming in very deep water. The home town fighters previous K.O defeats, age and the manner in which the American has skilfully and violently dispatched of his last few opponents, makes it appear like it will finally be lights out for the dark destroyer and the rise of the G-man
As the fight inches closer the tension builds between the two titanic figures of my childhood. My father and brother. They rage about the possible outcomes of the fight, then an eerie silence envelopes the room as Gerald McClellan begins his entrance. He appears as menacing as a school bully prowling the yard for there next victim. Unfortunately for us it appears like he has his sights set on Nigel and wants more than his lunch money. His pride, reputation and the championship belt that Benn holds so dear. As he enters the ring, the crowds boo’s and jeers grow but McClellan is encapsulated in his own world of self confidence, destruction and fear.
The room erupts as Benn bobs his head while slowly marching towards the ring.
As Benn enters the ring and Jimmy Lennon junior begins to announce the two combatants the air seems to stop and grows a little colder. This is the moment when hearts stop. He finally booms out his signature announcement ITS SHOWTIME and the action Begins.
Seemingly no longer the force he once was the gallant warrior crashes to the canvas and is propelled through the ropes headfirst into the watching photographers. The American slowly walks back to his corner, while the champion is pushed back into the ring and quietly rises to his feet. McClellan appears to snarl and goes in for the kill boom where the hell did that come from the dark destroyer from the depths of despair has landed an almighty right hand that has forced the American on the back foot and reminded him what English courage is!
After again being floored in the eighth my heart sank, this was the end. A valiant performance by a true champion, nothing more could be asked or expected.
Throughout our small living room the sadness of witnessing the defeat of our defiant warrior is overwhelmed by a beaming aura of pride. We are satisfied. The soldier has been through the trenches, given his all. We could hold our heads high in the knowledge that Benn our chosen had, put on the performance of his life and just came up short.
But this was not the end. Benn slowly creped to his feet signalled to the ref that he wasn’t finished and starred indomitably at the menace facing him. Our Hearts soared.
McClellan equally as tired and exhausted, but fuelled by the inherent need to win surges forward hoping wishing that Benn has nothing left, and will finally fall. As he approaches hands down his nightmare is realised. The Dark Destroyer awakens and Crashes a thunderous right hand that drains Gerald of hope.
After the bout I never felt the same about boxing. I am still uncertain about my feelings towards the fight game and the whole morality of two men trying to inflict as much damage as possible on one another for world recognition and money. But what I can say is that every since that night of unfathomable drama, courage and tragedy (Gerald ended up Blind, almost dead, wheelchair bound, and penniless) I rightly or wrongly have been unable to look away! And finally share in the magical spell that fight night casts over my Father, brother, and the millions watching around the world!