The Dark Destroyer Part Two: WBO Middleweight Champion

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

Nigel Benn

With three wins under his belt after surrendering his Commonwealth middleweight title to Michael Watson, Nigel Benn stayed in America and challenged Doug 'Cobra' DeWitt, the inaugural WBO middleweight champion. DeWitt proved his durability by taking Thomas Hearns the full twelve rounds in an unsuccessful bid for the North American Boxing Federation middleweight crown in October 1986.

DeWitt was born in Youngstown, Ohio on 13th August 1961 and later moved to Yonkers, New York. He started boxing at fifteen and three years later turned professional, outscoring Peter Pennello in March 1980.

The Hearns defeat was the seventh blemish on his record of 27-4-3 (17 KO's), with Ben Serrano, Robbie Sims and Milton McCrory all outscoring him. He also lost his next contest, a third round TKO to Jose Quinones in February 1987 (Benn took care of Quinones in the first round in December 1989).

Three wins and a draw later got him a shot at Sumbu Kalambay for the WBA middleweight crown. The champion was making the third defence of his belt and the fight took place in Manaco on 08th November 1988. DeWitt was rated number five by the WBA and the champion hit him at will, until knocking him out with a left hook to the jaw in the fifth round.

In his next fight, DeWitt squared off again with Robbie Sims, who outpointed him back in August 1985. At stake was the newly formed World Boxing Organisation middleweight title. After twelve rounds, two of the three judges favoured DeWitt to become the new world champion. He made his first defence against Matthew Hilton, winning at the end of round eleven, with the ringside doctor pulling Hilton out because of his injured right eye.

The hard punching 'Dark Destroyer' was next and the battle scarred DeWitt was the favourite to keep hold of his championship. The bout took place at Atlantic City's Caesars Casino and Hotel on 29th April 1990. Things didn't start well for the defending champion. Benn was accurate with his right hand over the top of DeWitt's lowered left and within 60 seconds of the maiden round he found himself cut. A hard left towards the end of the round shook the 'Cobra' to his boots.

Round two was pretty much more of the same. The unfancied challenger would steamroll his way through the champion's leaky guard, landing his bombs, leaving DeWitt with little option but to absorb the shots. As the end of the round was approaching they both landed left hooks. The champion went back on his heels and Benn's vulnerability came back to haunt him as his legs cut away from under him.

The challenger showed a great deal of maturity as he took the eight count on his knees instead of jumping to his feet in an act of bravado. The action resumed and the Brit won the exchange of crunching hooks as the bell rang to stop the action.

The champion changed tactics in the third, moving into Benn, throwing quick but weightless punches. The challenger landed a crunching right cross that put DeWitt on the canvas. The 'Cobra' was getting hammered around the ring with the bell saving him from a knockout.

Benn's dominance continued in rounds four, five and six, with DeWitt absorbing some sickening head shots, without the ability to avoid them. Now and again he would land some quick jabs and right crosses and he would tie his man up in close, but the challenger was piling up a big points lead.

The fight was becoming one-sided in the seventh, as Benn continued to land some huge, withering blows. The pace was starting to get to the challenger, then, as they tangled in a mid-ring exchange, Benn tripped over the champion's foot and stumbled into the ropes. In a strange act of bravado, the Brit threw himself back into the ropes and appeared to shout out in pain.

The champion was too astonished to act on the open target in front of him. Shortly afterwards the bell rang to allow the challenger time to recover. It was later revealed that Benn had actually twisted his ankle at that moment, but he refused to let any disadvantage get in his way.