McClellan's might looks bad for Benn

Ken Jones fears that Nigel Benn is likely to lose his world title tonight

The opinion held by a majority in boxing is that tonight's contest at London Arena between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan for the World Boxing Council super-middleweight championship will develop quickly into a bad experience for the champion.

Few expect Benn to last long against the 27-year-old American challenger, who makes a habit of rapidly bringing his contests to a violent conclusion. McClellan is such an explosive puncher that all three defences of the middleweight title he recently vacated were each over inside two minutes. He was twice beaten on points at an early stage of his professional development, but his record since then is hugely impressive. Only three of 21 subsequent opponents have gone further than three rounds. Announcing his intention to score another quick victory, McClellan, the 1-3 favourite, says "I don't see Benn giving me any real problems. His best chance is to try and knock me out."

It can be assumed that Benn does not concur with this conclusion. Bearing in mind persistent doubts over the challenger's stamina, he may attempt to make it a long contest in the hope that McClellan will wear himself out. The "tear-up" he forecast when the contest was made no longer figures as a possibility. Neither would it make sense.

The destructiveness once evident in Benn's boxing diminished when he entered the 12st division. Now he is a decent rather than a chilling puncher. Taking McClellan on at his own game would be nothing short of suicidal. The champion has not declared the preferred method publicly but it will come as no surprise if he concentrates on damage limitation. From the look and the sound of Benn this week, the probability of defeat has not escaped him. "Even if I lose, I intend to carry on fighting," he said. When boxers take that philosophy on board, defeat can be imagined for them.

As the former WBC middleweight champion, Julian Jackson reveals, the effect of being struck by McClellan is quite frightening. Jackson, who separated Herol Graham from his senses four years ago and more or less ended his career, discovered in two contests that McClellan had far too much for him. The first lasted five rounds, the second barely more than a minute. "When Gerald hit me bang on the button with a right, it was eerie," Jackson said. "I didn't feel any pain but I was suddenly on my knees, staring at the canvas. I could hear the referee counting but I couldn't move a muscle. I'd never known anything like it before. Like a number of people I think Gerald may have a stamina problem, but he hits so hard that proving it is difficult."

In prospect, the contest has drawn comparision with Benn's defence of the World Boxing Organisation middleweight crown against Iran Barkley. However, the Barkley who was knocked out in one round was not the Barkley who twice defeated Thomas Hearns and gained two more world championships after the loss to Benn. Medically blind in one eye, Barkley's career would be rescued by retinal surgery, but that night, on his manager's admission, he should not have been in there. "If Iran didn't need the money so badly, I wouldn't have allowed it," he said. Significantly, the British Boxing Board would not licence Barkley to fight in this country.

Benn insists that he draws strength from the nervousness he admits to. "I've fought people like Barkley, Doug DeWitt and Chris Eubank who put the fear of Christ into me and against them I always put in my best performances. Fear helps me. McClellan gives me a buzz and will bring out the old `Dark Destroyer'."

Upsets occur occasionally in boxing, but if McClellan fails to become champion tonight it will be nothing short of sensational. He can be expected to complete the task quickly, perhaps as early as the second round.

McClellan's power, page 44

TALE OF THE TAPE

BENN McCLELLAN

31 Age 27

Ilford, Essex Born Freeport, IIl

5ft 10in Height 5ft 11in

12st* Weight 12st*

42/44in Chest/expanded 42/44in

32in Waist 32in

17in Biceps 18in

14in Forearm 15in

11in Fist 12in

24in Thigh 26in

14in Calf 15in

16 1/2in Neck 16in

7in Wrist 7 1/2in

8in Ankle 9in

42 Fights 33

39/2/0 Won/lost/drawn 31/2/0

32 Stoppages 29

13 First round win 20

8 Second round win 5

28 Wins within six rounds 29

4 12-round distance 0

15 Title fights 5

12/2/1 Title record 5/0/0

*Official weights announced at weigh-in at Britannia International Hotel, Docklands, yesterday.

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