Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



Nigel Benn announces ring comeback at age 55, will face Sakio Bika in fight for ‘closure’

Benn (left) attacks Doug DeWitt. Photo from The Ring Archive
Fighters Network

Nigel Benn, who had held world titles at 160 and 168 during the 1990s, announced on Thursday that he was returning to the boxing ring, 23 years after his last bout.

Benn, 55, unveiled plans for what he says will truly be his final bout, with the opponent being former WBC super middleweight titleholder Sakio Bika, 40. The fight will take place at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England. The bout is scheduled for ten rounds and will take place at light heavyweight, reported The Independent, which adds that the gloves will be 12 ounces instead of the standard ten.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Benn (42-5-1, 35 knockouts) of London, England said, before acknowledging his sons Conor and Harley Benn, both of whom are professional fighters.

“This fight is all about me. It wasn’t financial, it wasn’t nothing. It was always about closure that I wanted that I never had.” 

Benn delved into some of the life issues he had dealt with from a young age, including smoking cigarettes from age 8 to 41, and getting into ecstasy and smoking marijuana during his career. He says he began to turn his life around in 2008 after a religious experience and had been training diligently ever since.

“Not one fight that I went through that I didn’t suffer with [depression]. It was bugging me. I don’t even think I was at my best, I don’t know how I got that far,” said Benn.

Benn was best known for his two fights with British rival Chris Eubank, whom he lost to by ninth round stoppage in 1990 and then was held to a draw in a 1993 rematch that Benn looked to have gotten the better of. His other notable fights were a one round street fight KO win over Iran Barkley, an eighth round stoppage of Doug DeWitt and an ill-fated fight against Gerald McClellan, which left his American opponent severely handicapped after their 1995 fight.

Benn lost the final three bouts of his career, losing a split decision to Thulani Malinga and twice being stopped by Steve Collins, all in 1996.

He adds that he had initially reached out to Eubank for a third fight, but that it wasn’t forthcoming, and followed that by speaking with Roy Jones Jr., whom he claims wanted $10 million for the fight. He says he also reached out to Jeff Lacy, Bernard Hopkins and Collins before reaching an agreement with Bika.

Bika (34-7-3, 22 KOs) of Sydney, Australia by way of Cameroon hasn’t fought since 2017, and has been in with most of the top super middleweights and light heavyweights since turning pro in 2000.

I could have picked an easy opponent but that’s not who I am,” said Benn, who now lives in Australia as well.

The criticism around the fight has been centered on the concerns about Benn putting himself at unreasonable risk by entering the ring at an advanced age.

The former WBO middleweight and WBC super middleweight titleholder was announced as “the fittest 55 year old on planet earth,” and a professor and medical researcher in attendance at the press conference stating that tests conducted on Benn including blood, MRI scans, cognitive function and body fat “indicate that his physiological age is at least 15 years younger than his chronological age,” said Professor Michael Graham.

Not everyone was so convinced. The British Boxing Board of Control turned down Benn for a license, so Benn sought out licensing from the British and Irish Boxing Authority. The organization was represented by Gianluca Di Caro, its vice president, and Graham, who was announced as the commission’s “chief medical officer.” Also on stage at the press conference was Mark Peters, who will promote Benn’s fight.

Di Caro says the commission will have “infra-scanner” devices at ringside to detect brain bleeds, with medical staff and ringside officials on hand who are trained to recognize the signs of head trauma.

Leading boxing promoters have called on Benn to reconsider. Frank Warren told iFL that Benn “shouldn’t be fighting,” while Eddie Hearn told SecondsOut that he had too much respect to criticize Benn for his decision, but said he didn’t think Benn should be fighting.