Inside Lines: Dark Destroyer comes out fighting for the forgotten army

 

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The Independent Online

While David Haye toys with the prospect of being embarrassed by the even bigger and better Klitschko brother, a real warrior reminds us of the days when fighting men epitomised the glorious rawness of the ring.

Nigel Benn, the former world super-middleweight champion whose battles with Chris Eubank in the early Nineties were collisions of will and ego as bitter and intense as any in fistic history, is going to war again.

The Dark Destroyer, a former squaddie and a veteran of Northern Ireland, was back on parade last week at a gymnasium in Telford, Shropshire, teaching ex-servicemen how to defend themselves in unarmed combat. He has been enlisted by British Military Marshall Arts, run by ex-para and world kick-boxing champion Lee Matthews, to spearhead a project in which former service personnel are trained for a new life as martial arts instructors or security guards.

Benn was also a martial artist in his youth ("I used to be as deadly with my feet as my hands but there was no money in it"). He is angered by the way some of Britain's ex-servicemen and women are treated.

"They need to earn a living but they come back from Afghanistan or Iraq and think: 'What can we do?' Here are trained athletes but they feel dumped, pushed aside. We never look after our military properly. No wonder so many end up in depression, or suicidal." He admits attempting suicide himself, but is now a born-again pastor in Mallorca. His visit here also allowed him to assess Chris Eubank Jnr.

"Young Chris is gonna be good – just like his dad. But there's no way Chris Snr will stay in the background. The boy has got to say: 'Look dad, you've had your time, now it's mine'."

Benn, 48, also has a son with boxing potential, 15-year-old Conor. "He could be better than me. But his mum doesn't want him to fight and I'm wary of what could happen because of my own experiences. Fame and fortune bring the gangsters, the drugs, the sex. You get caught up with the rock 'n' roll. It's not the boxing that does the harm, its the lifestyle."

An Indian stay-away

It is doubtful India will carry out a threat to stay away from London 2012 over Dow Chemical's funding of part of the stadium. I understand that Lord Coe may be prepared to fly to Delhi to hold talks with Indian Olympic Association before a vote on 5 December which follows a petition by some Indian athletes – mainly hockey players – who are upset that Dow now own Union Carbide, the company responsible for the Bhopal chemical disaster which cost many thousands of lives in 1984.

A boycott is unlikely to be endorsed by the governing body but the issue is embarrassing for the 2012 chief, who helped broker the £7m deal and has Indian ancestry through his grandmother.

The International Olympic Committee will back London as they also have a billion-dollar sponsorship with Dow, as will the Government. Last night the Olympics minister Hugh Robertson, whose opposite number Tessa Jowell has called for the deal to be scrapped, told The Independent on Sunday: "We understand the sensitivity but Dow acquired Union Carbide a decade after the disaster and their products are in daily use all over London."

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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