Boxing: Benn determined to prevent demise of the 'Dark Destroyer'

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The Independent Online
Nigel Benn sometimes speaks with a forked tongue; tonight he ends his second retirement this year, once more to challenge Steve Collins, the World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight champion, four months after a twisted ankle curtailed their first encounter.

Should Benn be believed when he claims Collins has relit the fire within Britain's most consistently exciting fighter of the last decade? If not, the 20,000-plus crowd at the Nynex Arena, Manchester, will witness the demise of the "Dark Destroyer".

The rematch headlines Frank Warren's lavish promotion which also features the Sheffield showman, Naseem Hamed, and Manchester's Ensley Bingham in WBO title fights - the first bill ever to boost three world title contests each featuring a British participant. The Manchester card is a free hors d'oeuvre to wet appetites for Sky Sports' second venture into pay-per- view television later this evening, when Mike Tyson headlines Don King's Las Vegas show featuring three world heavyweight title fights - another first for the Warren-King promoting team.

Hamed's incredible popularity ensures the Manchester promotion box-office success, while the British light-middle champion Bingham's challenge to Ronald "Winky" Wright provides local interest. But the super-middleweight (12 stone) fight captures the imagination.

The unsatisfactory four-round ending to Fight One - also at this venue - hinted that Benn's seemingly inexhaustible capability had run dry. Collins, an unfashionable late entrant to the memorable series of battles featuring Michael Watson, Chris Eubank, Benn and himself, finished as the top dog.

The Dubliner, 32, should prove too strong, too hungry for Benn, also 32, at this stage in his arduous career. Collins' 36 fights (33 wins, three losses) have been less draining. But history suggests this is Benn's kind of fight. When the odds have been against him in 47 previous contests (42 wins, four losses, one draw with 35 knock-outs) Benn invariably has delivered.

Benn has lost his last two - Sugar Boy Malinga taking his WBC championship eight months ago - and realises defeat tonight leaves no way back. Under the circumstances, only the rash would bet against him. If his desire is all he promises, Benn can win a decision after 12 hard-fought rounds, setting up a third fight with the Irishman. If not, Collins can claim his 18th KO victim.

While 23-year-old Hamed is unbeaten in 23 fights (with 21 KOs), his last two performances have been disappointing by his own lofty standards. Floored for the first time before stopping Daniel Alicea, struggling before Manuel Medina's retirement, Hamed needs a convincing win over Argentina's Remigio Molina tonight.

Florida's Wright, the WBO light-middleweight champion, has been beaten just once in 36 fights - but the 33-year-old challenger Bingham (16-6) is a vicious left hooker and landing his pet punch with regularity could make him one of Britain's more surprising world champions of recent times.

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