Gary Newbon exclusive: I saw the way McClellan collapsed, boxing is brutal

"You have to be very careful criticising boxers or cornermen who pull their fighters out when they are in trouble or clearly injured - just look at Gerald McClellan and Michael Watson."

As Gerald McClellan collapsed at his feet in the ring after a truly epic battle against Nigel Benn in February 1995, ITV Sport broadcaster Gary Newbon feared he was witnessing another boxing tragedy.

Newbon clambered into the ring after McClellan retired on his knee in the tenth round of a truly brutal fight at the London Arena, with his task of interviewing Benn after he retained his WBC super middleweight title complicated by a chaotic scene breaking out around him.

Having worked on the fight between Chris Eubank and Michael Watson in 1991, Gary Newbon saw all the signs that a tragedy could be about to unfold, with Watson's injuries from that night leaving him in a coma that could have ended his life.

The life-changing injuries Watson suffered left a lasting mark on Newbon and having experienced one tragedy in the ring, he feared another horror story was unfolding before his eyes as McClellan fell to the floor.

"I was one of the few after that fight who knew that McClellan has collapsed. He collapsed on my feet, out of sight of the cameras," recalls Newbon, in an exclusive interview with Planet Sport.

"My director was blissfully unaware of it amid the chaos in the ring and I had to interview Nigel when he was unaware how serious the situation was for McClellan.

"I realised we had to try and get McClellan out of the ring and to receive medical treatment, but getting information out of a ring when there is pandemonium after a fight is never easy.

"He did get medical help, but it was clear from an early stage after he collapsed that he was in a pretty desperate way.

"Having worked on the Watson vs Eubank fight for ITV that also had a tragic ending for one of the fighters, I feared the worse when I saw the way McClellan collapsed after the fight."

Presenter Gary Newbon (left) talks with former boxer Michael Watson at the Variety Club 30th Sporting Awards, at the Lancaster Hotel, London in 2003
Presenter Gary Newbon (left) talks with former boxer Michael Watson at the Variety Club 30th Sporting Awards, at the Lancaster Hotel, London in 2003

McClellan has spent the rest of his life living severe injuries that have left him blind, hearing-impaired and in a wheelchair, with Newbon suggesting those injuries should be taken into account when fighters are pulled out of fights by the cornermen.

"Boxing fans think it's a matter of life or death whether the fighter they support wins a world title, but health is always so much more important and we are reminded of that on night when things go so tragically wrong," he added.

"We saw a situation with Billy Joe Saunders a few weeks back when he had a go at Daniel Dubois for pulling out of a fight when he had a serious eye injury and then a few weeks later, ironically, he finds himself in a similar situation as he eye was busted by Canelo Alvarez.

"So you have to be very careful criticising boxers or cornermen who pull their fighters out when they are in trouble or clearly injured.

"You just have to look at Gerald McClellan and Michael Watson to see what can happen if you don't respect the health of a fighter.

"Boxing is a brutal sport, it always will be. It is safer now than it was, but it is still the only sport where the objective is to knock your opponent unconscious."

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