Tuesday 21 November 2017

Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank fighting in their 50s wouldn't be fun - it would be depressing

Steve Bunce

There is a man called Bronco Billy Wright selling luxury cars in Las Vegas, fighting on occasional weekends and at 51 still believing he will get the call to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. The fight business loves a dreamer, even a hefty old one.

Wright, you see, has a world ranking because every few months he defends something called the WBC FECARBOX heavyweight title, which places his considerable bulk in the WBC’s top 20 and makes him eligible for fantasy, selection and potential slaughter as an opponent for the champion. Wright has knocked out 11 of his last 12 opponents in the first round and has not lost since 1998.

One of his recent first round victims was Harry Funmaker, a 20st American fighting in New Zealand who was nearly 50 when he met Wright for the interim PABA heavyweight title, which is traditionally the domain of the finest Fijian and Samoan big boys. On that night in Auckland the pair tested the ring engineers with a combined weight of 582lbs, just shy of 42st and they fought just shy of a second per stone with the fat carnival finishing after 41 seconds. I think their combined age of 95 years and 10 months and joint weight must be some type of mad unwanted record for a sanctioned fight; Wright was ranked No 17 by the WBC at the time. Sadly, the Funmaker has quit the business.

“I have old man strength,” Wright told me last year and he does. Last week, I wrote about a man called Two Ton Tony Galento, an impossible dreamer and boozer and he had that same fat, old-man power, which a lot of heavyweights in history seem to retain as their hair falls out, their waists fall over the beltline and their timing vanishes. “I’m ready now, right now for a world title fight,” added Wright, who has lost four times and three of those defeats were against world heavyweight champions. He is a freak, a joke to some but his statistics are real.

I mention Wright only as a juicy appetiser to the ongoing negotiations that exist for a third fight between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank. This is really not funny because old men – Benn is 52 and Eubank 49 – in the lower weights do not age well in ring years and I have terrible memories of middleweights, welterweights and lightweights trying to find something noble in lost cause after lost cause. They might look in better shape, fight fast in gym videos but in the ring they fade quicker than the fat guys in the heavyweight division. The old and light fighters mistakenly believe that definition, a six-pack and a pad routine that sings replaces the lost years.

Benn and Eubank, a beautifully matched pair of diverse rogues, first met at the NEC in Birmingham in 1990 in one of the most memorable and hostile fights I have ever sat ringside for. Benn had not prepared and was stopped in round nine of a pitiless brawl that launched the finest decade ever in British boxing. They had a rematch in front of 42,000 at Old Trafford in 1993 and this time the three judges took the easy way out and returned a bitter drawn verdict. Their hate continued long after the lights dimmed at the Theatre of Dreams and to this day it has not changed, trust me.

Benn has been wayward in his life, turned to preaching and now has a forum for his beliefs in a place called Darktown near Sydney. He is pushing for the third fight, claiming Eubank has gone back on a deal and putting deadlines on the skirmish before he walks away permanently. His hate is stronger, there is no doubt about that and the all-enveloping hostility could still lead directly to a fight.

Benn has not fought since a trio of hurtful defeats in 1996 and Eubank finally quit in 1998 after his own unfortunate hat-trick of losses. They have swapped their aggression for an infinite variety of pursuits since their fighting days but the insults, the remaining egos and their equal refusal to relax in each other’s company has moved the fight closer than it has been in twenty long years.

I suspect that there is a very grave chance that they will fight in some type of sideshow that will no doubt prove both watchable, lucrative and ghoulish enough to outrage the outraged. They are dads with terrible attitudes, each capable of enough cynical manoeuvres to brazenly ignore the growing storm of criticism when the final duel is announced. I hate it and love it, which is a bit like boxing really. See you ringside at the madness. 

Independent News Service

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