Boxing: Benn banks on big bang

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The Independent Online
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ANOTHER weekend, another all-British world title fight. This time it will be the faces of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn on the television screens as they meet at Old Trafford on Saturday night.

Two world titles will be at stake, Eubank's World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight championship, and Benn's more renowned World Boxing Council version of the title. Even though it comes in the wake of Lennox Lewis-Frank Bruno it is unlikely to lack excitement, judging by the ferocity of their first encounter at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre in November 1990.

Eubank won that contest in the ninth round to move his career on to the world stage and elevate his bank account into the seven-figure bracket. This time he is taking six - pounds 800,000 against pounds 1m for Benn - for an event which has been eagerly anticipated in boxing circles and by the marketing men ever since their first meeting.

'Contrary to what people think, I'm not a greedy man. I decided to take less than Nigel to give the public what they want,' Eubank said during the countdown to his 13th world title bout in 35 months.

The cash demands of both men almost made the fight impossible, until the promoter, Barry Hearn, struck a deal with the American boxing entreprenuer Don King.

King's connection with the Showtime cable network in the United States might have made the sums add up, but the inevitable strings were attached. The winner is committed to meeting the quicksilver World Boxing Association champion, Michael Nunn (who is managed by King), in a unification series, which also involves the International Boxing Federation's champion, James Toney.

That schedule appears to exclude Henry Wharton, the Yorkshireman who is the leading contender for Benn's title and who is due around pounds 30,000 from Hearn in compensation for being kept waiting.

The big-punching Wharton is confident of unseating Benn or Eubank - especially Benn - but fears the winner at Old Trafford might give up the WBC crown to pursue greater riches. 'I'd much rather be fighting a champion than somebody else for the vacant title,' Wharton said.

'Even before Benn became champion, I asked my manager Mickey Duff to get him for me. I just think Benn's style is made for me.'

Matchroom reports tickets sales well in excess of 30,000 for Benn- Eubank and more than 60 countries will be taking the fight in one televised form or another.

Eubank's strength is expected to prevail once more, but what has to be taken into account is his flirtation with defeat in the last outing against Ireland's Ray Close.

Benn's chin may be reckoned to be on the suspect side, but only an 11th-round knockdown of Close saved Eubank's unbeaten record, title and ego. He escaped with a draw when his big night at Old Trafford was in danger of being ko'd for good. Not for the first time, Eubank came good when it mattered.

(Photograph omitted)