Final bell for big-hearted Benn

Collins keeps his world crown as a legendary warrior suffers the indignity of being jeered into retirement
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Nigel Benn, the man who for so long has been the personification of snarling aggression in the ring, was booed out of boxing in Manchester last night after retiring at the end of six fierce rounds against Ireland's Steve Collins in their World Boxing Organisation super-middle weight title fight.

Benn pulled his gloves off and threw them into the crowd, but when he took the ring mike to address the 20,000 fans who had packed the Nynex Arena his words were drowned by whistles, boos and chants of "what a load of rubbish". It was churlish treatment for a man who has given such superb entertainment over the years, and finally the clearly embarrassed Collins grabbed the microphone from him and demanded respect for the man he described as "Britain's greatest warrior". When Benn finally got a hearing, he confirmed the painfully obvious - that he had fought his last fight. He had announced his retirement after each of his last two fights, a points loss to Sugar Boy Malinga which cost him his World Boxing Council title and the fourth- round loss to Collins in July, but this time there can be no way back for him.

He no longer has the burning desire for what he used a call "a good tear- up" and Collins found it relatively easy to impose his will and break Benn's resolve. There had been no knock-downs, although both men gave and took plenty of solid punches, and Benn's sudden exit at the end of the sixth took everyone by surprise. His right eye was closing fast but the real damage had been to his spirit rather than his body. He had hit Collins with the best punches he could muster but the rugged Irishman barely blinked and never looked to be in any danger. The exchanges were wild and ragged at times - caused mainly by Benn's tactic of grabbing Collins at close range to stop him working. Collins quickly became exasperated and was cautioned repeatedly before the referee, Paul Thomas, finally ordered the ring-side judges to deduct a point for the champion's careless use of the head in the fifth round.

But the deduction was never likely to have any significant impact on the fight, as Collins had comfortably landed the cleaner, more precise and more hurtful punches. The judges all had him in a comfortable lead at the finish with scores of 58-55 and 58-56 (twice) but in any case Benn's resolve was trickling away like water from a leaky bucket and he clearly had little appetite left for the kind of no-quarter combat which Collins relishes.

There had been lingering bad feeling between the pair since their previous meeting in July ended in curious circumstances when Benn twisted his ankle and could not continue and they exchanged angry words before the formal introductions in the ring. The crowd were notably hostile to Collins but the Dubliner was, as always, utterly focused on the fight and unmoved by any outside circumstances.

The exchanges in the first round were wild and over-eager but Collins settled quickly to his work in the second landing solidly with long rights and short left hooks. Collins was already testing Benn's resolve who had landed his best punches to no effect. The referee took time out at the start of the third to ask them both to tidy up their work but this was not a fight for the faint-hearted.

Collins legs buckled from a right midway through the round but he has wonderful powers of recuperation and Benn's chance was gone almost before he had spotted it himself. Collins then took firm control of the fight, bouncing right hands off Benn's dreadlocked head. Benn was holding more and more frequently now but Collins measured him with long rights and whacked him with left hooks to the ribs late in the round. Benn's appetite for the fight was waning by the second and there was a desperate look about him as he flailed punches at Collins in the fifth. He tried to rally in the sixth but his punches had no effect on Collins who rocked him repeatedly with rights but never actually looked like flooring him. It was clearly a matter of time but Benn looked as though he still had some rounds in the tank when he suddenly quit.

It was a sad and undignified exit by a man who deserves to be remembered for better nights than this.

Comments