Twenty years later, the boxing world has largely forgotten Gerald McClellan

Kevin Iole
Boxing
Former middleweight champion Gerald McClellan requires around-the-clock care as the result of injuries suffered in a Feb. 25, 1995, bout with Nigel Benn (Getty Images file photo by Al Bello).

GERALD 1995

Former middleweight champion Gerald McClellan requires around-the-clock care as the result of injuries suffered in a Feb. 25, 1995, bout with Nigel Benn (Getty Images file photo by Al Bello).

The boxing world remains in euphoria, five days after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally signed a contract to fight each other in a bout on May 2 in Las Vegas that will, quite literally, generate hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Wednesday is the 20th anniversary of another memorable fight, one that far too many in and around boxing have forgotten about. 

On Feb. 25, 1995, in London, WBC super middleweight champion Nigel Benn stopped WBC middleweight champion Gerald McClellan in the 10th round of their fight. The powerful McClellan had knocked Benn out of the ring in the first, and knocked him down again in the eighth, and several times appeared on the verge of a knockout victory.

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But Benn survived and turned the tables in the 10th. He knocked McClellan to a knee twice in the 10th round. McClellan couldn't resume the fight, and Benn won by TKO. McClellan had trouble walking to the corner and collapsed, where he lost consciousness.

Doctors removed a blood clot from his brain, but he suffered irreversible damage. He is now blind, nearly deaf and has great difficulty walking. He requires care 24 hours a day. He is nothing like the vicious puncher who compiled a career record of 31-3 with 29 knockouts. He needs assistance for the most basic tasks.

Gerald McClellan (L) is now 47 and is with his sister, Lisa, who is his primary care-giver. (Photo courtesy Lisa McClellan)
Gerald McClellan (L) is now 47 and is with his sister, Lisa, who is his primary care-giver. (Photo courtesy Lisa McClellan)

His sisters, Lisa and Sandra, have essentially given their lives over to him and care for him full-time. He is on permanent disability and receives a government check, but it's nowhere near sufficient to pay for his care. Lisa, who was a care-giver at a nursing home, quit that job so she and Sandra McClellan could take care of their brother. They each receive pay for five-hours a day from the state of Illinois, where Gerald lives, to take care of his every need.

She said she has no issues with boxing and is happy that Mayweather and Pacquiao are earning so much money from their fight that they'll be able to set up future generations of their families for years to come.

But she doesn't understand why so many connected to the sport have forgotten Gerald, or why there isn't a plan in place to care for the likes of her brother.

"Life would be easier if there were some sort of pension or insurance given to the boxers to try to protect them," Lisa McClellan told Yahoo Sports. "Those would be things I'd love to see and they'd make things easier for us. But it's not just us I'm talking about. It's all the boxers. I wish there were a way that some of this money that is out there could be put aside for a pension for the boxers or to help them in cases like this."

Lisa McClellan is putting together a fund-raising dinner, "An Evening Honoring the G-Man," on March 28 at the Masonic Temple Ballroom in Freeport, Ill. She said she no longer allows herself to be sad and said she looks at it as a blessing that her brother is still alive, because so many fighters have given their lives in the ring. 

Still, she is disappointed at the response from the boxing community. One of their own has fallen and is in desperate need, but the response these many years later hasn't been all that swift.

"Putting this dinner together, it's been frustrating trying to get boxing involved," she said. "It is kind of a slap in the face that Pacquiao and Mayweather can generate so much money for one payday, but for not just Gerald, but other fighters in similar situations, it's such a big struggle to get through each day. It is kind of like a slap in the face."

One of the problems is that young, well-conditioned athletes often feel they're invincible, and don't think of the future. They don't think of the tragedies that have come before or that could come again. 

They want as much money as they possibly can and because they're risking their health and safety, aren't willing to take less so money could be set aside for use by others.

Lisa McClellan said that anyone who has that attitude, though, only needs to make a trip to see her brother and then they'll understand. 

"Have them come spend one day with us and that will change their [attitude]," she said. "Gerald's still a young man. He's just 47 and he's going to live a long time still. That's a lot of care he needs and that comes at a great cost."

She said her brother, who isn't aware of the financial issues, still loves the sport and isn't bitter about boxing.

She said that when he and Benn met again in 2007 for the first time since their tragic bout, she heard him say something he'd never said before.

"He told Nigel, 'I almost lost my life in the ring, but boxing is my life,' " she said. "He still thinks of himself as a fighter, but when I heard him say that, it was like, 'Ooooooh.' These guys give so much to do what they do in that ring and it's easy when the fights are over for the people not involved to forget just how much they sacrifice."

UPDATE: Hours after this story was published, Lisa McClellan phoned Yahoo Sports to say that the New York-based Ring 10 had been extremely generous to her family since Gerald's injury. She said that so much was on her mind at the time of the interview that she forgot about Ring 10 and didn't want to appear ungracious.

"They have been incredible to Gerald and our family, and we can't thank them enough," she said.

The WBC has also given the McClellans several grants.

 

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