The news that 55-year-old Nigel Benn is coming out of retirement to fight the 40-year-old former WBC world super-middleweight champion Sakio Bika will have excited half of his faithful fans who watched him in some classic encounters against the likes of Chris Eubank, Michael Watson, Gerald McClellan, Iran Barkley, and Steve Collins way back in the late 80s and mid-1990s, the other half will be saddened at the thought of the man known as ‘The Dark Destroyer’ in his heyday being beaten-up by the much fresher Bika, a resident of Sydney, Australia by way of Cameroon.
No-one doubts Benn’s fitness, even at his advanced years (As far as boxing is concerned), but no matter how good he is when he spars with much younger boxers, age will find him out when it matters most, in the ring with an opponent who last fought professionally in October 2017, and fought for the WBC world light-heavyweight title against Adonis Stevenson in April 2015, losing by unanimous decision. Quite simply, this is madness!
So, Benn has been out of the ring for 23 years compared to the 2 years that Bika has been retired, plus he is 15 years older. My last memory of Benn, the fighter, was him looking dreadful against the rampaging ‘Irish’ Steve Collins in his last fight in 1996. Does he think that the 23-year rest has revitalised him somehow? No, he’s not an unintelligent man, but the thought of one last taste of glory is enough to make him risk his long term health, and his true fans and friends should not support him in his quest.
It was interesting to hear his former promoter Frank Warren pleading with him to stay retired when asked for his thoughts on Benn’s comeback. Warren is genuinely concerned for his old client, and so he should be. That super-middleweight era brought about two of the worst and most high profile brain injuries in boxing in fights between Benn and McClellan and Eubank and Watson in their second encounter. This was when these men were in their physical primes, Benn won’t have that shield of youth that allows you to soak up punishment during a bruising fight, and the aging process will not have made him more resilient, quite the opposite.
The British Boxing Board of Control turned down Benn’s application for a boxers license but of course he can get a license elsewhere from a legitimate commission such as we saw when David Haye and Dereck Chisora fought under the auspices of the Luxemburg Boxing Federation in London in 2012.
In Bika, Benn would be facing a man renowned for his toughness and no-nonsense approach. The 40-year-old first came to world prominence in 2006 when he travelled to Germany to challenge Marcus Beyer for the WBC 168lb title, losing after 4 rounds on a technical decision due to a cut to Beyer’s right eye. Later the same year Bika challenged WBO champion Joe Calzaghe for his title in Manchester, losing by unanimous decision in a tough cruelling affair.
Bika (34-7-3) faced some marquee names during his 17-years as a pro. Adonis Stevenson, Anthony Dirrell x 2, Marco Antonio Periban, Andre Ward, Lucien Bute, Joe Calzaghe, and Marcus Beyer. Like Benn, I suspect he is a man that stays in shape so despite a 2 year hiatus from the ring he poses a serious threat to the man who first became world champion when winning the WBO middleweight title from Doug DeWitt in Atlantic City in 1990.
Boxing has a history of fighters who just couldn’t stay away from the chance of resurrecting their once glittering career and the chance to once more bask in the glory of victory. Carlos Palomino was WBC world welterweight champion from 1976 until 1979, racking up eight successful defences before losing his title to Puerto Rican great Wilfredo Benitez on a 15 round split decision. In is next fight he lost to Roberto Duran, again by decision and decided to retire having carved out a career that ensured his legacy.
After 18 years in retirement, Palomino couldn’t resist the lure of ring glory once again and returned to face Ismael Diaz (6-11-2) in Holywood, California, winning by 8th round retirement. Palomino was 48-years-old and looked pretty good even considering the level of opposition. Three more wins followed including a 1st round blowout of former two-time WBC super-lightweight world champion Rene Arredondo. In May 1998, Palomino took on Wilfredo Rivera (27-3-1), the former world title challenger and a man 29 years younger, losing on a unanimous and clear 10 round decision. Palomino retired for good aged 49 without embarrassing himself or tarnishing his legacy.
If Benn does face Bika then the best outcome would be a decision loss just like Palomino vs Rivera. If he leaves the ring with his pride intact then we can only pray that he gets the boxing bug out of his system.