'Dark Destroyer' victorious in court bout

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Former champion boxer Nigel Benn won the most important fight of his life yesterday when he was cleared of viciously attacking a businessman he had once "loved like a brother".

The former World Super-Middleweight Champion, who insisted he was "fitted up" over the unprovoked assault in a West End nightclub, could not hide his relief as he was acquitted.

The 33-year-old dreadlocked "Dark Destroyer", his hands - once insured for pounds 10m - clasped in front of him, swayed slightly then grinned as the crowd of friends and supporters in the packed public gallery at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court shouted "yes!" Benn, wearing a velvet-trimmed three- quarter length, chalk-striped designer jacket, then bowed to the jury and thanked them before leaving the dock at the ernd of the seven-day trial.

Within minutes, his ecstatic and tearful fiancee, Caroline, the mother of the couple's seven-month-old twins, had flung herself into his arms. The couple plan to marry on 26 July.

The six men and six women on the jury, who spent six hours considering the evidence, had first unanimously cleared millionaire Benn of wounding self-confessed former drug-dealer "Rolex Ray" Sullivan last September with a glass ashtray, with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.

Then, after being told by the judge that he would accept a majority verdict, they retired once more to consider a second a lesser, alternative charge alleging that Benn unlawfully wounded the ticket agency boss in the popular Mayfair night club, Legends.

The jurors returned less than 20 minutes later with their second "not guilty" verdict.