Watch: Nigel Benn to fight Sakio Bika in return to boxing after 23 years away

Nigel Benn announces his comeback
Nigel Benn announces his comeback

Nigel Benn has announced he will return to boxing for a one-off fight at the age of 55 in order to gain "closure".

Nigel Benn has announced he will return to boxing for a one-off fight at the age of 55 in order to gain "closure".

The former world champion feels he has unfinished business having struggled with drug abuse, depression and the death of his brother during his original career.

Benn, who has not fought professionally since 1996, confirmed on Thursday that he will face 40-year-old Sakio Bika in Birmingham on November 23.

Bika took Adonis Stevenson the distance in 2015 and, though 40, has been in the ring professionally as recently as 2017.

In 2006 he lost to Joe Calzaghe in Manchester with fellow former world champions Andre Ward, Anthony Dirrell and Stevenson others with whom he's shared a ring - and he didn't get knocked out by any of them.

Nigel Benn press conference

Speaking at a press conference in London, he said: "It's been a long time coming. This fight is all about me. It wasn't financial, it was always about closure that I wanted that I never had.

"I suffered with a lot of issues in my life from a young age, from 1972 when my brother died - the murder of my brother - which I carried through to my adult life.

"At the age of eight, I started smoking cigarettes to 41, I started doing ecstasy, smoking spliffs all throughout my career, but suffered with depression.

"There's not one fight that I went through that I didn't suffer with. It was bugging me.

"I don't event think I was at my best, I don't know how I got that far."

Nigel Benn with his son Conor Benn
Nigel Benn with his son Conor Benn

Nicknamed the 'Dark Destroyer', Benn claimed the WBO middleweight title in 1990 and held the WBC super-middleweight title from 1992 to 1996.

His most recent bout, a challenge for Irishman Steve Collins' WBO super-middleweight title, came almost 23 years ago and ended unsuccessfully following his retirement after six rounds.

"I was in a dark place for so many years," he continued. "I was having suicidal thoughts, I didn't want to be where I was. I just want you to understand what I was going through.

"And then, in about 2008, I had an encounter with Jesus, that's when my life changed, truly changed: no spliffing, no ecstasy, no women, absolutely nothing."

London-born Benn believes he is in the best physical condition of his life and compared himself to Benjamin Button, the character created by F Scott Fitzgerald who ages in reverse.

"I feel the time is right now. People may say, 'you're 55'. It's nothing to do with age," said Benn.

"I'm fitter now than when I was world champion.

"It's not the 'Dark Destroyer' because everything synonymous with that name is not who I am. Now it's Nigel 'Benjamin Button' Benn - the older I get, the fitter I am and I 100 per cent mean that. I am so fit."

The meeting with Bika, a former WBC super-middleweight champion, will be licensed by the British and Irish Boxing Authority (BIBA), rather than the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC).

Benn has been advised against his surprise return by a host of leading names in the sport, including promoter Frank Warren and Billy Joe Saunders, the current holder of WBO super-middleweight belt.

Eddie Hearn, meanwhile, has expressed concern about the suitability of the match-up with Cameroonian-Australian Bika.

Professor Michael Graham, the BIBA's chief medical officer, said Benn is fit enough to return to the ring.

"The tests that we have done on Nigel Benn to date indicate that his physiological age is at least 15 years younger than his chronological age," said Graham.

"That's scientific blood tests, MRI scans, cognitive function, body fat, et cetera.

"If you look at some of the other boxers who have been sanctioned by other sanctioning boards and provided licences, Nigel's certainly as fit, if not fitter, than most of them. Certainly the fittest 55-year-old boxer on the planet."

Five Memorable Comebacks

George Foreman

Seemingly against everyone's better judgement, Foreman returned to the ring after a 10-year absence in 1987. Twenty-four straight wins earned him a shot at world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, and even after losing that fight he still carried on. Three years later, at the age of 45, Foreman was crowned his sport's oldest world champion when he stopped Michael Moorer in Las Vegas.

Muhammad Ali

The master of boxing comebacks blotted his copybook by attempting one too many. Ali should have quit after claiming a revenge win over Leon Spinks in September 1978. Instead, two years later, he returned to find himself humbled by a tearful Larry Holmes - and still found time for a farcical finale against Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas in 1981.

Ricky Hatton

Hatton's comeback attempt proved particularly painful to watch. Three years after a crushing loss to Manny Pacquiao, Hatton began his comeback bid against little-known Vyecheslav Senchenko in front of his adoring Manchester supporters - and suffered a heavy knockout defeat in the ninth round.

Virgil Hill

Former world light-heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion Virgil Hill was not content with ending his career on a loss in 2007. Eight years later, at the age of 51, Hill returned to knock out Jimmy Campbell in front of his home fans in Bismarck, North Dakota, before hanging up his gloves for good.

Jim Jeffries

Jeffries retired on top after retaining his world heavyweight title over Jack Munroe in 1904. But six years later promoters and politicians were desperate to find a fighter who could beat the new brash, black champion Jack Johnson - and they thought Jeffries fitted the bill. He didn't - he was stopped in the 15th round of the so-called 'Fight of the Century'.

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