The Dark Destroyer Part Three: Chasing Eubank
Updated: Feb 26
After losing his world title to Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn returned to the ring at the beginning of April 1991. His opponent was Marvin Hagler's half-brother, Robbie Sims. Like his sibling, Sims was a southpaw who could box competently as an orthodox fighter.
Sims was a decent amateur, outpointing Marlon Starling in the finals of the New England Golden Gloves in 1975 and 1979. He turned professional as a middleweight in May 1980 and suffered his first points loss to future light-heavyweight and cruiserweight champion Bobby Czyz in January 1982.
His career looked like it would stall at the end of the year and beginning of 1983 as he suffered another loss to Clint Jackson and a draw with future IBF super-middleweight champion Murray Sutherland. Sims' third defeat came in the August as Mike Tinley outscored him, and it looked he wouldn't be anywhere near as good as his brother and reigning undisputed middleweight champion, Marvin Hagler.
Sims finished the year with two wins and started 1984 by stopping Iran Barkley, who was 7-1 (5 KO's), in round six. He continued to win that year, until he ran into Tinley again in the November, dropping another points loss to the New Jersey man.
He stayed unbeaten in 1985, inflicting the second defeat on Doug DeWitt's career and in March 1986 stopped John Collins for the USBA middleweight title in the very first round. Three months later he outpointed Roberto Duran over a ten round split decision. Sims next boxed in January 1987, drawing with Tim Williams and stopped his next two opponents, which put him in line to face WBA middleweight champion, Sumbu Kalambay on 12th June 1988.
The defending champion outpointed Iran Barkley for the vacant belt in October 1987 and put the first loss on Mike McCallum's resume when he decisioned him in March 1988. Against Sims he was making his second defence and successfully held onto the belt by unanimous decision. After the contest Marvelous Marvin Hagler also announced his retirement from boxing, quashing any chance of a rematch with 'Sugar' Ray Leonard.
Sims dropped to 29-5-2 (21 KO's) and didn't box again until April 1989, where he took on old foe Doug DeWitt for the vacant and lightly regarded World Boxing Organisation middleweight title. DeWitt avenged the loss to Sims he suffered in August 1985 by outpointing him to become the inaugural WBO champion.
He lost a third fight in a row to Dennis Miller in the September but ended 1989 with a win over Victor King. In April 1990 he became the USA New England middleweight champion when Kenny Butler was disqualified in the fifth round. Ron Essett outpointed him two months later and Sims scored a unanimous decision over Ralph Moncrief in November 1990, before travelling to the York Hall, Bethnal Green to face Benn.
The thirty-one-year-old southpaw came out for the opening round in an orthodox stance. He moved away from Benn and looked to suss out his hard hitting opponent. The Londoner boxed solidly and landed some hurtful punches in an uneventful three minutes.
The pattern continued in rounds two though four; Sims would circle and stay out of range, with Benn boxing with maturity and looked to land his big bombs. The Londoner began to land some solid blows in rounds five and six, with Sims feeling the effects as he slumped on his stool at the end of the sixth.
In the seventh Benn was looking to pick his punches, which was allowing Sims to come forward and have the better of the round. With Benn on the ropes he unleashed a left hook bang on the button. The tough jawed American was hurt and the Brit glanced over a right and another left hook put his opponent to the canvas.
Sims got up and was allowed to continue by the referee, John Coyle. Three more rights had Hagler's half brother down again, with Coyle calling a stop to proceedings. It was the first and only time Sims had been stopped in his sixteen-year professional career, which came to an end in Septemebr 1996, with a respectable record of 38-10-2 (26 KO's).
Benn returned to the ring in July against the well respected Kid Milo, who Chris Eubank stopped in the eighth round due to a cut in September 1990. The former WBO middleweight champion started in a controlled fashion, working behind his jab. A big right caught Milo on the jaw and he staggered back, nearly going through the ropes. He did well to survive the round and stood his ground, bringing a smile of appreciation from the 'Dark Destroyer' as they touched gloves at bell to bring the maiden round to a close.
Milo continued to bravely fight back when hurt and finally succumbed to Benn's firepower at the end of round four. It proved to be the Londoner's final contest at middleweight, as he moved up
in October 1991. He faced six-foot-three (191 cm) American Lenzie Morgan, who four years before turning pro in 1987, lost his family in a house fire, where he suffered serious burns and was in a coma for four months.
Benn won a ten round points decision and ended the year by blowing away Argentinian Hector Abel Lascano with a third round knockout. In 1992 he then took on Chris Eubank's former opponents in an attempt to force a rematch with his conqueror, who won the WBO super-middleweight title in September 1991 after a tragic match against Michael Watson.
Dan Sherry was selected by Eubank in February 1991 as his first defence of the middleweight belt he won from Benn. The Brighton man, fighting in front of his home fans, put the Canadian down in the opening round. After suffering a headbutt from the champion in round ten, the fight went to the score cards, with Sherry unable to continue.
Eubank kept his belt with a technical decision and Sherry went back to his home country to defend his Canadian middleweight title. He lost the championship to Otis Grant in September 1991. In February 1992 he was back in Britain and took on Benn in his super-middleweight debut.
Sherry was a tricky customer and with his clever boxing he knew how to keep out of trouble and looked to spoil every time Benn go into range. The Canadian had never been counted out before, but a single right hand in the third broke that record.
In May 1992 'The Dark Destroyer' took on another Eubank victim, Thulani 'Sugar Boy' Malinga. The South African lost on points to Eubank in the February, who was making the first defence of his WBO super-middleweight title. Benn was looking to dispatch his opponent quicker than Eubank did, like he did to Milo and Sherry.
Malinga was made of harder stuff and was yet to be stopped as a professional. He was also naturally bigger, spending the majority of his career in the light-heavyweight class, holding the South African title from October 1986 to May 1987. He challenged twice for the IBF super-middleweight title, prior to his shot against Eubank, being outscored by Gracciano Rocchigiani in January 1989 and Lindell Holmes in December 1990.
Benn entered the ring at the NEC in Birmingham as the top rated super-middleweight by the World Boxing Organisation and was hoping a convincing win would get his old nemesis, Chris Eubank, to give him a rematch. Malinga also wanted Eubank again and after ten rounds, it looked like the South African had done enough to win.
However, Paul Thomas, the referee and sole judge, raised Benn's hand at the end of the contest, scoring it 98-97½ (one round). Malinga was rightly upset and pleaded with promoter Barry Hearn to grant him a rematch with 'The Dark Destroyer'. Team Benn had other ideas...
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