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The Dark Destroyer Part Four: WBC Super-Middleweight Champion

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Nigel Benn

As a lucrative rematch against Chris Eubank looking highly unlikely, Nigel Benn switched his attention on WBC champion Mauro Galvano from Italy. Galvano started his professional career in February 1986 and in November 1988 he drew with Mwehu Beya in a challenge for the Italian light-heavyweight title.

In June 1989 he suffered his first defeat, at the hands of Beya, in a rematch for the national championship. The Italian, born in Fiumicino, Lazio on 30th March 1964, won his next three bouts. He outpointed Mark Kaylor for the European super-middleweight title in March 1990.

Nine months later he was in Monte Carlo, outpointing Argentina's Dario Walter Matteoni for the WBC super-middleweight championship, vacated by 'Sugar' Ray Leonard. Galvano also outscored Ron Essett in July 1991 and Juan Carlos Gimenez in February 1992, before putting his belt on the line for the third time against Benn on 03rd October 1992.

The Londoner, who hired new trainer Jimmy Tibbs for his trip to Italy, had ditched the thinking's man approach and Tibbs brought out the natural aggression in the 'Dark Destroyer'. He was greeted into the ring by a hostile partisan crowd. Benn thrived off the hostilities and knew it was just him and Galvano in the ring.

Benn set the pace and the ay the fight was going to go. He would get bob and weave under the rangy, light-punching champion and fire his left hook and more notably right hand over the top. Galvano didn't have an answer to the shorter Benn's style and by the time he trundled back to his corner at the end of round three, he had blood trickling down his cheek.

It was a fight ending cut but Galvano's handlers refused to treat it, instead calling referee Joe Cortez over claiming a foul had caused the split. It looked like Team Galvano had pulled their man out and Benn started his celebrations, only to realise the Italian could keep his belt on a technicality.

With what seemed like an eternity of deliberating between the WBC officials and both Italian and British promoters (Barry Hearn), the WBC awarded the title to Benn, who became the first British boxer to win two weight division world championships on foreign soil.

WBO counterpart, Chris Eubank was at ringside and the new WBC champion said, "Now we can do business," and the hype machine between Benn and Eubank had been set in motion once more.

Benn next entered the ring in the December and faced Welsh knockout artist and Mensa member Nicky Piper. The Welshman captured the ABA light-heavyweight title in 1989 and turned pro in September 1989 and blew away his first four opponents before drawing with Maurice Core. He then knocked out his next six bouts before stepping up to cruiserweight to take on Carl Thompson.

Piper suffered his first defeat, losing by a third round TKO in September 1991. Towards the end of the following month he dropped down to super-middleweight and banged-out his next two opponents. He went the distance three times in 1992 and stopped  Gloucester's Johnny Melfah in the fifth round, five months before his challenge to Benn.

Piper's advantages in height and reach were useful in keeping the champion at bay at times but Benn was able to get inside and work the Welshman's body. Both men did entered into unknown territory as they entered round eleven for the first time. Benn finally got through to the challenger, flooring him. Piper was cleared to continue but was stopped on his feet at the one-minute 44 seconds mark.

Benn returned to action on 06th March 1993 and gave ex champion Mauro Galvano at Glasgow's Scottish Exhibition Centre. The Italian, sporting a goatee beard, didn't come to the ring with much ambition to win, just spoil and survive the distance. He did manage to rock Benn with a right hand in the dying seconds of the final round, bringing back questions about his suspect chin.

Benn retained the WBC belt unanimously, 118-112, 117-113 and 118-114. His next challenger, Lou Gent, was sitting at ringside in Glasgow and thought his chance against Benn had faded when Galvano cracked him with that right hand. He sighed a relief and his June date with Benn was very much on.

Gent started his pro campaign as a nineteen-year-old in September 1984. He faced Glenn McCrory for the British and Commonwealth cruiserweight crowns, losing by an eighth round retirement in April 1988. He was also knocked out in the forth round by British cruiserweight king Johnny Nelson in March 1990.

Staying at cruiser he won his next three contests and in October 1991 boiled down to super-middleweight to challenge undefeated Commonwealth champion Henry Wharton. The 11-0 Yorkshireman had a tough time with Gent and retained his title with a draw verdict.

Gent was then outpointed by British super-middleweight champion Fidel Castro Smith, formerly known as Slugger O'Tool, in February 1992. Johnny Melfah stopped him in the May and Gent went on a three fight unbeaten run, taking Hunter Clay's WBC International super-middleweight title in February 1993, earning him a shot at Benn.

On paper this looked like an easy defence for Benn but the two London rivals threw out the rule book and traded. Though the champion knocked Gent down three times in the third round, the challenger had his moments and visibly hurt his man.

Gent had nothing left and in the fourth was put down twice more before referee Larry O'Connell had seen enough. Benn now set the path clear for his coveted rematch with arch nemesis Chris Eubank at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium on 09th October 1993.

Controversy was never far from Chris Eubank after he ripped away Benn's WBO middleweight championship in November 1990. His first defence in February 1991 had to go to the scorecards after Eubank butted Dan Sherry in the tenth round, retaining his title on a split decision.

Then there was the hotly disputed points victory over Michael Watson four months later. The September 1991 rematch, for the vacant WBO super-middleweight title was shrouded in tragedy when Eubank, behind on points found a right uppercut to put Watson on the seat of his trunks.

Watson came out for the final round but he ha nothing left. Eubank swarmed all over him and Roy Francis intervened. Eubank was a two-weight champion and Watson was rushed to hospital after suffering head injuries. He made a recovery but his boxing days were well and truly over.

Despite the Watson injuries very much on his conscience, Eubank remained an active champion, squeezing in seven defences before his unification date with Benn. Old Trafford was buzzing and being a spectator that night I can certainly verify an electric atmosphere.

Unfortunately, as is almost always the case, the return bout didn't live up to the original clash. Benn had a point deducted in round six for a low blow but the consensus was he had done enough to gain revenge over his hated foe. The judges saw a different story and declared the match a draw. Both men kept hold of their respected belts and Eubank remained unbeaten (35-0-2 with 18 KO's).

In February 1994 Benn outscored his mandatory challenger, Henry Wharton by unanimous decision and seven months later had to negate the twelve round distance again when outpointing the tough Juan Carlos Giminez, before returning to a London ring in February 1995...

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