I was captivated at seven years old, when watching Nigel ‘The Dark Destroyer’ Benn give his blood sweat and tears in the ring against the formidable Gerald ‘The G-Man’ McClellan.
It was a controversial bout, in that the injuries sustained to McClellan tragically left him disabled and sadly requiring around the clock care. But it was also a classic clash that has lived long in my memory.
The American threatened to blow Benn away in the opening round as he pounded away at will and knocked him out of the ring. The writing appeared to be on the wall for Benn, but the courageous Brit battled on. He astonishingly responded to the vicious attacks on him, by recklessly launching himself into the ‘G-Man’ with hurtful punches of his own that stifled the momentum of his fearsome foe.
McClellan was younger, bigger, technically superior, a renowned puncher and was dubbed by his promoter as “the mini Mike Tyson”. Nobody gave Benn any hope of overcoming this Tyson-esque terror and in the eighth round he was knocked down again.
None of this mattered. Benn was a warrior with an indomitable fighting spirit. He fought on and ground down his opponent so that in the 10th round, McClellan with the fight beaten out of him, rested on one knee and was counted out of the bout.
Benn’s numerous wars were like something from a blockbuster action movie and when he retired in 1996, it was safe to assume that the story had ended.
So when Benn’s son, Conor announced that he was turning professional, he represented a sequel of sorts, to the Benn story. He had already thrilled crowds with his York Hall classic against Cedric Peynaud, back in December 2017, but last weekends bout in the same venue took things a step further. Conor performed in a manner that was so reminiscent of his illustrious father, that it induced nostalgia within me and had me reconnecting with my seven year old self.
As the bell rang to signal the opening round, what struck me was the size disparity between the young Benn and his experienced, 35 year old opponent, Jussi Koivula. The man from Finland looked at least a weight division larger and by the end of the round he was firmly in control. He pushed Benn back and roughed him up whilst landing clubbing shots that rocked Benn repeatedly.
It looked like it was going to be an easy night’s work for the Finn and I feared the worst for young Benn.
Then in the second stanza of the contest, Benn proved that the similarities between him and his father ran deeper than just sharing a surname, entering the ring to the chimes of Big Ben and styling his hair in dreadlocks.
Benn has flaws – he appears to be easy to hit, there is an air of vulnerability about him and his technique is unrefined. Also, with respect to Koivula, he isn’t anywhere near the elite caliber boxer that Gerald McClellan was.
However, like his legendary father, the younger Benn loves a war and has knockout power. Most intriguingly though, is how he has inherited the same unique fighting spirit that serves as an equaliser against superior talents. It allows him to conjure up the type of drama that makes him entertaining and endearing to fans.
If Nigel Benn was like a blockbuster action movie, then fans should get their tickets and buy their popcorn in preparation for more exciting installments. Regardless of how far Conor Benn goes, he has already added worthy sequels to the story, that remain true to the original.
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