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Ilford boxing legend Nigel Benn in new battle for ‘street kids’

PUBLISHED: 15:23 14 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:36 14 October 2015

Nigel Benn (right) and Steve Collins battle it out in the first round of the WBO Super Middleweight fight at the Nynex Areana, Manchester. Photo by Sean Dempsey/PA.

Nigel Benn (right) and Steve Collins battle it out in the first round of the WBO Super Middleweight fight at the Nynex Areana, Manchester. Photo by Sean Dempsey/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The boxing legend and former twice world champion Nigel Benn, once known as the Dark Destroyer, said he has returned to his birth place in Ilford a “transformed” man.

Nigel spoke to the Recorder ahead of a talk he is giving about his life tomorrow night at the Prince Regent Hotel, Manor Road, Woodford Bridge, alongside former world champion Colin McMillan, former three-times world title challenger Herol Graham and 1984 Olympian Rod Douglas.

Born in Ilford from immigrant parents from Barbados, the 51 year-old, who retired in 1996, grew up among six brothers, and took up martial arts as a child.

“I was meant to do martial arts since I came out of the womb,” he said.

“Boxing has made me dedicated to whatever I do and I believe in myself.”

The former Loxford School of Science and Technology pupil has lived in Miami, Los Angeles, Majorca and Australia, where he settled three years ago, but regularly returns to Ilford to visit his parents.

“Ilford was a lovely place to grow up and the best place to be in at the time, but it is now so different from the place I knew,” he said.

The father of eight now dedicates his time to charity work with his wife to help vulnerable and underprivileged children, volunteering at Hillsong Church, Australia.

“I try to help these kids get off the street and give them a different place in life,” he said.

“It’s about giving them an opportunity, hope and a vision because without a vision you perish.

“We all go through a process. I am transformed and I want to tell people that you can be transformed.”

At 18, he joined the army, which he described as “a hard experience”.

He was posted in Germany and Northern Ireland at the time of the troubles, losing friends during the Ballykelly bombing in 1982.

Nigel’s son Conor Benn, 18, is training in Manchester and hopes to follow his father’s footpath into professional boxing.

“He is going to be a top dog, he is that good,” he said.


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