Nigel Benn says that he will retire for good whatever the result of his comeback fight in November whatever the result, saying his fight with Sakio Bika is a one-off to give him closure, not because he needs the money.
The 55-year-old former WBO middleweight and WBC super-middleweight champion has not boxed since 1996, but he will make his return to the ring on November 23 in Birmingham against Bika, who won the WBC super-middleweight title 17 years after Benn lost it.
Benn, who says he has stayed training non-stop since he retired and still regularly does two training sessions per day says he understands why the British Boxing Board of Control turned down his request for a licence and claims he is well aware of the risks, but says people should be more worried for Bika than for him.
At the press conference in London on Thursday to announce his return, Benn sometimes seemed close to tears with the emotion of the occasion. Benn lost his last three fights – the last two to Steve Collins – before retiring at the age of 32. But he said his life had been a mess then, as he took drugs, cheated on his wife and suffered from depression. Now he says he is in the best frame of mind he has ever been in.
“It’s been something I have been waiting for a long time,” Benn said. “It’s not for money. When I fought Steve, my wife was ready to leave me. The last thing I am thinking of is fighting Steve. I’m wanting to repair my marriage. And lo and behold, 28 years we are still together and happily married.
“All through my career I have been in a dark place from the age of eight, spliffing, smoking doing everything until I was 41 and had the encounter and my life changed.
“Jesus came my life changed, no spliffing, no sexing, no Es, no cigarettes, everything changed, but I just need that one more fight.
“My fitness levels now are through the roof. But I have to get rid of this thing in me. It’s more powerful than ever.”
It was revealed that Bika was Benn’s sixth choice of opponent. First had been his old rival Chris Eubank, but negotiations went nowhere. Roy Jones Jr was then approached, but Benn said he asked for $10 million. Approaches were also made to Bernard Hopkins, Jeff Lacy and Steve Collins before Bika stepped up.
“Bika has been in more wars than me,” Benn said. “The only war I’ve been in was Gerald McClennan. A lot of guys have wars in the gym and come out punch drunk. I’m not like that. I have had a good break and I have been training like a trooper. Just because I am 55 I won’t go into a box.
“I can see punches coming. I won’t be waiting around to be hit. I know me. I feel three times as fit as fighting McClennan.”
He has promised his family that this will be it, though, even if he wins or Eubank comes calling.
“I’d make him sign a contract and tear it up in front of him,” Benn said. “You know him, he’s a messer, I ain’t got time for him. The other guys it became about money for them. But my agent said ‘it’s about you to have closure’.”
The fight will be at light-heavyweight, over ten three-minute rounds. Both boxers will wear 12oz gloves.
While the BBBC decided not to be involved, the British & Irish Boxing Authority, a fringe body that has licensed many boxers rejected by the BBBC. Benn insists that he had to pass extensive medicals to be approved.
“They are stringent, it wasn’t easy,” he said. “I had a brain scan, a neck scan, lungs everything. I am Nigel Benjamin Button Benn, it’s not about age. I’m in training all the time, I have got that army discipline.
“People talk about my legacy being affected, but I don’t care about legacy. I was never into any of that. I just want to go out there, have a good fight, please the British public and that was it. I don't think about legacy, that's already gone. This is about me.”
Benn now lives in Australia, but will be training in the London area until the fight. He says the thought of this being the end for him has made him emotional.
“I was thinking about retirement, because I know it’s coming,” he said. “That's what gets me emotional. The reason why I’m thinking like that is because I know I can spend that lovely time with my wife and my kids. I miss a lot of time with my wife and my kids because I’m in the gym. I get up at 6 in the morning, go to the gym, it takes me an hour and half to get to the city, I have two workouts, then head back again. The kids are at home so I prepare some food for them but then I go to the gym again.
“But I just want to be able to do what I want. At the moment I’m still thinking about fighting. But that's why I got emotional.
“I’m looking forward to the peace I’ll get after this fight. I think that’s what everyone really wants, peace in their life.”