BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs

Archives for November 2011

Dark Destroyer sees the light

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Ben Dirs | 07:30 UK time, Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nigel Benn strolls into the room, fixes me with a mischievous grin and embraces me so hard I hear my spine go 'pop'. Not so much the Dark Destroyer nowadays as the Cuddly Chiropractor. Prior to Benn's prescription, my back had been giving me gip for weeks.

For the next 30 minutes, Benn takes me on a break-neck tour of his life - him at the wheel, me the passenger - so that events flash by in vivid detail: sex, drugs, soldiering and DJing, infidelity and depression, the true meaning of happiness and the recuperative word of God.

At one point, he apologises for veering off-road - "you only came down here to talk about boxing" - but I tell him not to worry. This chat is why people are still drawn to the fight game. It may have lost its way since Benn's 1990s heyday, but boxers still have all the best tales. And when a boxer has taken you to places you find almost impossible to imagine, a footballer's yarn about his passion for R&B and Xbox is rather lacking in zing.

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Smokin' Joe elevated to greatness by Ali rivalry

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Ben Dirs | 06:28 UK time, Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Olympic gold-medallist. Undisputed world heavyweight champion. Twelve world-title fights. A 73% knockout record. Arguably the best left hook in history. All this with a gammy arm and while blind in one eye. You see, it can be done, outlining Joe Frazier's greatness without mentioning 'the other one'. Ah well, I very nearly managed it.

Truth was, and truth is, however much Frazier might have protested, Muhammad Ali illuminated Frazier's own greatness while also managing to be the bane of his life.

Great rivalries elevate the rivals involved to greater heights - John McEnroe opined that tennis was never as much fun again after Bjorn Borg retired - but when your rival is the most charismatic sportsman who ever lived, you are liable to forget the excitement you generated together, all that money you made and feel overshadowed, unappreciated and bitter instead.

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