Nigel Benn vs. Gerald McClellan

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Benn-McClellan 937015.jpg

1995-02-25 : Nigel Benn 168 lbs beat Gerald McClellan 165 lbs by KO at 1:46 in round 10 of 12


  • McClellan was a 3-1 favorite. [1]
  • Entering the fight, McClellan had won 14 straight fights by knockout, 10 in the first round. His previous three fights, WBC middleweight title defenses, lasted a total of 3 minutes and 20 seconds.
  • Showtime televised the fight live in the United States.
  • The bout was named Fight of the Year for 1995 by KO Magazine.
  • The Ring Magazine named the bout the 42nd greatest title fight of all-time in 1996 and the 6th greatest fight of the 1990s in 2000.
  • Benn told The Ring Magazine in 2013 that McClellan was the best puncher he ever faced and "by far" the best overall fighter. "There was a mile between him and anyone else," Benn said. "I came out of that fight with a damaged nose, a damaged jaw and I was urinating blood. I was in bed for three days afterwards and I had a shadow on my brain. That shows you how powerful a champion that man was." [2]


McClellan suffered a massive blood clot to the brain and underwent an emergency three-and-a-half-hour procedure to remove the clot. The surgery saved his life but, after two months in a coma, he was left blind, hearing impaired, brain damaged and unable to walk. His short-term memory is severely limited, and his long-term memory is selective.

He is cared for by his sisters (Lisa, Sandra and Stacey) in their hometown of Freeport, Illinois.

McClellan receives social security disability and a small WBC pension, but it costs approximately $70,000 per year to take care of him and pay for the round-the-clock assistance that he requires. Astronomical medical bills and the costs of his yearly care exhausted all of the money that he earned as a professional prize fighter. For this reason, McClellan and his family rely on donations to the Gerald McClellan Trust to care for him. Roy Jones Jr. has donated parts of several fight purses to the trust.

McClellan attended a benefit on his behalf in London on February 24, 2007. The event was arranged by Nigel Benn, who is now an ordained minister. More than 1,100 people attended. Numerous items were auctioned off, and a total of $175,000 was raised. The promoters of the Benn-McClennan fight, Don King and Frank Warren, each donated $25,000.

It was reported in 2012 that McClellan required surgery to have his colon removed.

Post Fight Report

From The New York Times, February 27, 1995

The American boxer Gerald McClellan was in very critical condition and on a life support system Sunday after undergoing brain surgery in which a neurosurgeon removed a blood clot inflicted by a punishing title fight against the world super middleweight champion, Nigel Benn.

Although the 27-year-old McClellan had a "better than 50-50" chance of surviving, said Dr. John Sutcliffe, who performed the lengthy operation at Royal London Hospital, the next 48 hours were crucial and McClellan could be disabled.

One thing was certain, Sutcliffe said: "His career as a boxer is finished."

McClellan's brain, the surgeon said, "was quite swollen, how we would expect a brain to look after it's been punched" for 10 rounds.

The 31-year-old Benn, himself knocked down twice before knocking out McClellan in the 10th round Saturday night, collapsed in his dressing room at London Arena and was rushed to the same hospital. He was released early Sunday morning.

"Mr. Benn has checked over thoroughly and appears to be well," a hospital statement read. "After any percussive to the brain it is important for the patient to be watched carefully. This will be the case with Mr. Benn and obviously if he has any problems he will be followed up immediately."

The director general of the British Safety Council, James Tye, said he would revive calls to ban boxing.

"I'm a little bit horrified because right from the beginning of the fight there wasn't much boxing about it," he said. "Really, it was one bloke trying to injure the other bloke's brain. People don't understand this but what's really happening with boxing, the brain is like a blancmange."

A blancmange is a rubbery pudding.

"Every time this evening, and hundreds of times it occurred, the blow is struck, the brain cracks against the inside of the hard skull, and it has the effect of numbing the brain or causing permanent brain damage," Tye said. "All kinds of changes have been made but really the answer is to ban it."

Though McClellan was the challenger, his enormous power had made him the favorite to unseat Benn, the World Boxing Council champion. Born in Freeport, Illinois, and trained in Detroit, McClellan had won 21 consecutive fights. He had finished his last three WBC middleweight title bouts in the first round before moving up in weight to meet Benn.

"I get a greater buzz from a knockout than I do from sex," he said before the fight. "Getting the power on, watching an opponent fall. There isn't another experience to compare with it."

Within 35 seconds of the opening bell he was knocking Benn out of the ring. The British champion woozily climbed back through the ropes and, by the end of the round, had landed a left hook that revived the loud hopes of the full house 12,500 strong.

In spite of the challenger's strength, his better senses of balance and poise, he was fighting against too many opponents. The British heavyweight contender, Frank Bruno, stood at the ropes for much of the fight, thumping his fist on the ring floor and shouting encouragement for Benn. Sitting beside Bruno was the more famous Don King, the American promoter who had escorted McClellan overseas, and he was roused to stand and shout on his man. Lumps and cuts formed under the lights and the noise as the fighters attained and maintained a blistering, theatric pace, and at times it might have seemed as though the only person not standing was Michael Watson, last knocked out in 1991 by Benn's rival, Chris Eubank, and sitting ringside now in a wheelchair.

"Watson had a similar type of blood clot in the same space inside the head," Dr. Sutcliffe would say before operating on McClellan.

The fight appeared to have grown even when McClellan knocked down Benn again in the eighth. But McClellan was clearly exhausted, having never fought past eight rounds, and somehow Benn survived to the ninth, when he lunged and appeared to head-butt McClellan. The challenger sagged to one knee, blinking in pain.

Benn knocked him to his knees again to start the 10th. McClellan took his time rising, watching the referee count, blinking. At 1 minute, 46 seconds of the 10th, Benn landed a right uppercut and McClellan knelt in pain for the last time, near the ropes where King leaned forward and shouted in McClellan's ear to stand up and fight. But McClellan was concentrating on the French referee, Alfred Azaro, crouching and counting before him. After the count of 10, McClellan stood and walked away from King to his corner.

There was no stool waiting him for there so he sat in the ring, propped up against the turnbuckle and appeared to go to sleep. A crew of medics laid him gently on the floor for the first time that night. In prescient understanding of these fighters, an anesthetist had been arranged, and he gave oxygen to McClellan as a brace was being wrapped around his neck.

On the other side of the ring, Benn was shouting down questions from a British TV reporter. He thanked his hypnotist for convincing him he would win, and he criticized all those who had doubted him.

"You made a believer out of me," King said, and Benn was clearly surprised to see the symbol of American power and money in his corner. But Benn had won and King was merely consorting with the winner, the future money-maker, as an announcement was heard asking the crowd to clear a path for the loser's stretcher to leave the ring. [3]