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суббота, 24 декабря 2016 г.

Gerald McClellan FISTS ARE HARMLESS BUT HIS WORDS HURT MORE THAN ANY PUNCH


By Martin Samuel
THERE came a point at which he truly could not take any more.
When the enormity of the consequence, the pity of it, the feelings of guilt and an aching need for forgiveness swept up from the pit of his being, and Nigel Benn dropped his guard, and his head, and wailed.
He had played this moment through a thousand times, but it was never so painful. Gerald McClellan had hurt him that night 12 years ago, too, but not like this. His fists were harmless now; it was his words that cut Benn to the bone.
Blind, wheelchair-bound and largely deaf, McClellan asked his sister and carer Lisa the same question, over and over.
"Is Nigel here? Is that Nigel? Is he here? Is Nigel here?"
Finally understanding that the man who left him dying in the ring at the age of 27 was once more by his side, he inquired again."Does he look mean or does he look sad?"
Sobs

"He looks sad, Gerald," said Lisa."Tell him not to be sad," said McClellan. "Tell him it wasn't his fault."
At which point Benn broke. He reeled away, eyes streaming, and hid behind a pillar, his high-pitched sobs audible to all but one man in the room; the opponent for whom the tears were shed.
On February 25, 1995, in a fight for the WBC super-middleweight championship fatefully billed ‘Sudden Impact', Benn battered McClellan into the twilight zone.
He left his adversary fighting for his life in hospital, his last contact a kiss to his motionless hand as he lay in a coma. Both men have travelled a hard road since then.
Benn, through depression and attempted suicide, before Christianity gave meaning to his life; McClellan back to America to round-the-clock care from Lisa.
The fighters had not met since; only McClellan's dismal predicament which Benn became aware of through a short internet documentary brought them together.
A fund-raising dinner in London on Saturday night should help McClellan through another year or so. It costs £36,000 annually to look after him and the function hoped to raise over £100,000.
"I had never dealt with it," said Benn, fighting back more tears. "Never talked about it to anybody in 12 years. Not my mum and dad, not my friends, not my bible teacher. It was something I thought I had dealt with, but there were so many raw nerves. I had dealt with it as a boxer, but not as a person.
"When I saw his family, when I saw Lisa, what it had done to her life, there was a whole new emotion there.
"I just sat there with Lisa and we held hands in silence.
"We didn't have to say anything. We both know what we've been through. We just tried to deal with it. She knows how I feel, I know how she felt. What can I say? What could I say? It was hard, so hard."
More brutal than any might imagine for Lisa who, Saturday morning, was adamant she could not come face-to-face with Benn.
She has never watched her brother's last fight, although she had been ringside for many of his others, and in his final opponent was embodied 12 years of impotent rage and hurt.
"I remember seeing pictures that showed Gerald lying on the stretcher, while Nigel was tearing around the ring celebrating and that caused my heart to harden," she said.
"Right up until today I had made up my mind that I couldn't meet Nigel. Seeing him defined the 12 years Gerald has gone through. I had so many mixed feelings. Not blame, because I was a boxing fan. I know how it goes.
"I was just mad. Angry about things I'd heard or read about Nigel. Then through the night I grew angry about Gerald not being in his children's lives. There were so many emotions that in the morning I prayed. I decided if God meant this to happen, it would happen. If not, I would walk away. And when I saw Nigel, I couldn't walk away. It meant a lot to me that Nigel has become a Christian, too.
"I have experienced so much in this last 24 hours, emotions from Gerald that I have not seen in 12 years. When he met Nigel the first time he began to cry — and he has not cried once since that fight. And on Saturday morning at breakfast he admitted for the first time that he was blind.
"Usually, he pretends, makes things up.
"He'll say he can see and when I ask him what he sees, he says blue stuff or something. But this morning he asked straight out: ‘Lisa, why can't I see?' It took me totally by surprise. I tried to lie, tell him he could, but he said: ‘No I can't. This is all messed up.'
Drained

If these deviations from normality give the impression the reconciliation has been less than positive for the fighters, neither side would countenance it.
"I feel as if I could sleep for a week now," said Benn, as in the next room McClellan was tenderly fed a McDonald's snack by his sister.
"It has drained me in a way I never imagined. I was fine and then, one word from Gerald, and I started crying again. But I feel as if I can deal with it now; as if I have been forgiven.
"I have made my peace with Nigel and with what happened," said Lisa. "Definitely. What was important for me was to see that he did care about my brother."
Saturday night at the Grosvenor Hotel, 1,400 guests joined Benn to do exactly that. To pay a moving tribute to a brave man who in a very different way just could not take any more — and to reach out to those who are now left to pick up his pieces.

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