Nigel Benn – WBO middleweight champion 1990; WBC super-middleweight champion 1992-96.
In light of recent events surrounding Ricky Hatton I thought that Benn’s own comments on the demons that stalked his boxing career and retirement are particularly interesting:
“I wanted fame, money, women – you name it, I wanted it all. But did I have peace? No, I had more trouble, more heartache, more darkness. My life was in total disarray.
I was trying to fill the darkness with women, going out clubbing, partying – something was missing in my life. I’d made a lot of money – millions – and I had people who wanted to be around me, to sponge off me. I thought they were my friends but I never had any friends. I’d go out and buy champagne and I didn’t even drink champagne.
Everyone was around me to see what they could get out of me. My life was like that all through my career. I was just a pawn, to make people money. If it wasn’t for my wife and Jesus coming into my life, I’d either be six feet under or in a mental hospital.
The sport of boxing doesn’t worry about fighters, it’s all about making pound notes. They don’t care if I break my arm, there’s another Nigel Benn on the way. And they shouldn’t care, it was my choice – everything I did was what I wanted to do.
I’d say to fighters like James DeGale and David Haye: “Be careful, you’ve got to be strong.” I was very weak. It’s about making sure you have a good foundation, a good family and network of people around you, because you can easily get drawn away from them like I did. But it’s a sport that I loved – and that I still love.”