There was no small amount of consternation in an English country garden yesterday when Oliver McCall spoke about avenging the awful fate that befell his friend Gerald McClellan whose senses remain seriously impaired after a loss to Nigel Benn in London earlier this year.
The source of inflammatory statements that are sure to dismay the British Board and should invoke its censure, is that Benn was favoured by a long count when McClellan knocked him out of the ring in the first round. "That's why Gerald is blind, a vegetable," McCall said, "and why I am going into this fight full of bad intentions. It's payback time. This is a very special fight for me. It's a fight for vengeance."
McCall, who defends the World Council heavyweight championship against Frank Bruno at Wembley Stadium on 2 September, is also bursting with contradictions. He does not blame Bruno for standing at ringside in support of Benn but directs his belligerence at him.
And that may be it, he suggests. Retirement. "When I'm running, when I'm sparring, Gerald is never out of my mind," he said. "So this could be my last contest. I don't care about my title. I've reached my pinnacle, I'm world champion. The thrill and enthusiasm is no longer there.
"People keep telling me that I could make $50m (pounds 32.5m) for a defence against Mike Tyson but even that isn't in my thoughts. I miss raising my kids. I'm ready to get into the family life and think I've made enough money to raise one properly."
McCall's curious state of mind and past misdemeanours make the employees of his promoter, Don King, nervous. Two minders, it seems, are employed specifically to keep the champion under constant surveillance. When a call of nature came while McCall was speaking they went with him to the bathroom.
Not since Muhammad Ali held sway in the division has a heavyweight travelled with a larger entourage. McCall is here with his wife, six children, two brothers, his manager of record, Jimmy Adams, two trainers, Greg Page and George Benton, and enough hired hands to put a strain on the kitchen at Henlow Grange where he will be a month in residence.
When McCall took the title violently from Lennox Lewis at Wembley Arena last year he arrived just 12 days before the contest. A month's preparation on site appears to be extravagant but as a go-karting injury caused a postponement of the contest perhaps King's partner, the London promoter, Frank Warren, wanted McCall where he could see him.
Probably in anticipation of a rebuke from the Board, a small frown crossed Warren's face when McCall launched immediately into his provocative routine. Perhaps he was wondering about the wisdom of requiring both men to be in attendance today at the Imperial War Museum.
There is an equation involved, one that seems simple to McCall: if Bruno had the resilience to go with his cumbersome power he would not have failed three times to gain a version of the title. "We know Bruno cannot take a hell of a punch," he said. "His power will not be a factor. He can have an iron pipe in his hand and hit me in the head. I've sparred with him. He's not fast and is there to be hit.
"This will be one of the biggest punching heavyweights against one of the guys who can take the biggest shots in the heavyweight division. He can have his three kids at ringside as judges. It will not make any difference. This fight will not need judges."
And vengeance? "Sure, there's that too," McCall said.
Excusing himself, rubbing his abdomen, McCall hared off again, and dutifully the minders went with him.Reuse content