Lee Groves

10: Greatest super middleweight title fights

2. February 25, 1995 – Nigel Benn KO 10 Gerald McClellan, New London Arena, London, England

The tragic conclusion of this fight often, and in some ways correctly, obscures the sheer greatness of this pitched battle between two prideful, powerful competitors. In one corner was “The Dark Destroyer,” who mercilessly blasted out middleweights at a frightening clip only to transform himself into a well-rounded boxer-puncher at 168. In the other corner was “The G-Man,” whose nuclear-laden fists produced 29 knockouts in 31 victories, including a record-tying three consecutive first-round knockouts in title competition.

McClellan boldly predicted an unprecedented fourth straight first-round demolition and his actions more than backed up his intent. He nearly drowned Benn with power shots, each of which was delivered with murderous intent. Within 36 seconds a succession of hammering rights drove Benn through the ropes. The champion, who was making his seventh defense, scrambled into the ring by nine and bravely faced the blitzkrieg that was about to come at him. Only McClellan’s wildness, Benn’s resourcefulness and referee Alfred Asaro’s over-officiousness allowed the champion to survive the first three minutes.

Benn bounced back strongly over the next six rounds, nailing the backpedaling McClellan with powerful counters. The American seemed spent as his mouthpiece dangled from his mouth and his wild punches lacked their earlier snap and commitment. McClellan even switched to lefty from time to time and he sometimes winced in the clinches. But despite his duress McClellan’s instincts commanded him to keep punching and the constant action had the sellout crowd of 11,000 roaring at a volume that sounded more like 55,000.

McClellan emerged from his cloud of confusion in the final minute of round eight when a right to the side of the head and another glancing right sent Benn tumbling along the ropes and onto the canvas for the second time. As McClellan rushed in for the finisher Benn nailed him with several accurate uppercuts that stemmed the bleeding and calmed the tumult.

The ninth round was pure war as both men continued to fire their blowtorches. After Benn missed with a lunging right and fell toward the canvas his head crashed against McClellan’s cheek, prompting the challenger to take a voluntary knee. From that point forward McClellan’s erosion accelerated.

A powerful right to the cheek forced the retreating and grimacing McClellan to clinch early in the 10th, then three overhand rights followed by a glancing right uppercut drove the challenger to a knee, this time for good. Once Alfaro finished his count McClellan rose and walked toward his corner while Benn ignited a wild celebration. Moments later McClellan slumped to the floor and began the tragic journey which continues after more than 17 years.

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