By Robert Brizel, Brick City Boxing Correspondent
‘Sudden Impact’ was the wild in the jungle name given to the well-hyped February 25, 1995, matchup between World Boxing Council World Super Middleweight champion Nigel ‘The Dark Destroyer’ Benn and his challenger, the then World Middleweight champion Gerald ‘G-Man’ McClellan. 35 seconds into the first round, McClellan knocked Benn out of the ring. It remains controversial as to whether or not Benn beat the count, which would have made Benn McClellan’s fourth consecutive titular first round knockout victim.
Benn seemed to take control of rounds two through seven which followed, which McClellan knocked down Benn again in the eighth round. Benn appeared to headbutt McClellan while throwing wild punches in the ninth round. McClellan appeared not to be himself from that point in the bout till the bout’s conclusion. In the tenth round, Benn landed a righthand after which McClellan took the count on one knee, then got up. Another Benn right hand caused McClellan to take a knee again, and with his head clocking in a strange fashion of movement, allowed himself to get counted out.
In an incomprehensible scene replayed by boxing analysts and historians countless times, McClellan walked back to his corner, telling trainer Stan Johnson he felt like water was running inside his head, then collapsed on his back. Placed in a neck brace and given oxygen by doctors and paramedics, McClellan, as well as Benn (who collapsed in his dressing room due to exhaustion), were both rushed to nearby Royal London Hospital. McClellan, who regained consciousness in the ambulance, told trainer Stan Johnson he thought he got knocked out, and was surprised to learn how the bout actually ended. He underwent brain surgery and had a blood clot removed by Dr. John Sutcliffe. Benn was well enough to go home the following morning. McClellan spent two weeks in a coma, and went home in August 1995, blind with limited hearing.
25 years later, Benn, whose comeback bout attempt against Sakio Bika in 2019 was postponed due to a shoulder injury, still has not overcome the impact ‘Sudden Impact’ has had on his life. Benn, 42-5-1 with 35 knockouts, West Ham London, United Kingdom, has been unable to escape the shadow of the British ring still looming over his confused soul. With the death of his brother, Mark Benn, from COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, and the life of critically ill British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hanging in the balance in intensive care from COVID-19, it seems Benn is caught in an endless loop quandary. The ghost of McClellan and what happened 25 years ago still haunts him. The specter of death, which still haunts him and the brain-damaged McClellan, has ironically reached Benn first.