UK Politics

Former boxing champ Nigel Benn, 55, hopes comeback will ‘gain closure’

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More than two decades after his last fight one of the most celebrated British boxers of all time is stepping back in the ring to "gain closure" following bouts of depression, drug use and suicidal thoughts.

Nigel Benn – known as The Dark Destroyer in his heyday – is coming out of retirement in November for one last fight.

The 55-year-old will be up against former world champion Sakio Bika, who is 15 years his junior – 23 years after Benn's final defeat to Steve Collins.

He told Sky News' Jacquie Beltrao that despite being a former middleweight and super-middleweight world champion himself, during his decade-long career in the 80s and 90s his success gave him no joy.

Benn said throughout his career he was suffering from depression, was taking drugs, womanising and contemplated suicide multiple times.

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Image: Steve Collins (l) throwing the winning punch in Nigel Benn's last fight 23 years ago

Beltrao said interviewing Benn 23 years ago was "an intimidating experience – he was angry, he was snarly". But all that appears to have changed.

"I never dealt with the issues in my life," he said.

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"When I was fighting I was always suffering with depression.

"I started doing ecstasy while I was fighting, chasing women, doing e. My wife suffered so much, I had so many affairs.

"The only time I had peace was when I was training. I had a great career but it's attached to negativity."

Nigel Benn will step back in the ring 23 years after his last fight
Image: Nigel Benn will step back in the ring 23 years after his last fight

Not one to let age get in the way, his ring name for the fight will be Nigel 'Benjamin Button' Benn, in reference to F Scott Fitzgerald's fictional character who ages backwards.

Since his retirement in 1996, Benn has become a born-again Christian and has remained fit through his work mentoring and training boxers in Australia, where he lives with his wife.

He said: "It's not about age, everyone says 'you're 55'.

"Well, you're 55, you stay at home and do what you want, I'm doing what I want.

"I can't be put in a little box, I just can't be – I know me. A lot of boxers are punch drunk – I've still got my faculties."

Benn says he has kept himself fit since retiring in 1996 so his age does not bother him
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