'Dark Destroyer' and Hall-of-Fame boxer rebuilding shattered lives in Sydney


Two-time boxing World Champion Nigel Benn says he's never been happier since moving to Australia four years ago. The devout Christian hit rock bottom after a failed marriage but conquered sex and drug addictions and is now helping others do the same.

Nigel Benn's life story has all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster.  A feared fighter gets carried away with all the drugs and sex that are suddenly on tap, and his life quickly falls apart.

The estrangement from his first wife and four children led to a dark period in 1999.

"I remember sitting in the car just crying," he says.

After re-marrying and having four more children Benn says God entered his life.   

"No fame, no fortune, no world titles - they all mean absolutely nothing compared to knowing Jesus," he says. "Because winning world titles ain’t going to get me into heaven."

"I remember sitting in the car just crying."

Benn's passions are no longer the sex and drugs that almost saw him come unstuck.  He now devotes much of his time to the Hillsong  Church, alongside his wife Carolyne.  The pair helping fellow churchgoers with their marital problems. 

And after living in some of the most exotic locations on the planet, he's found home.

"We lived in Miami, LA, in Barbados, Jamaica and Hawaii," he says. "You can put them all together and they don’t add up to Australia, I absolutely love Australia - I feel at home."

His 18-year-old son Conor has shown enough desire and skill to be a contender to represent Barbados, the country of his grandfather’s birth, at the Rio Olympics.

Benn says he couldn’t be prouder.

"As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and he’s got it in him," he says.

Apart from his own personal demons, and four years spent in the British Army, the hardest thing Benn has faced was the aftermath of his fight with America’s Gerald McClellan.

"It was one of the worst fights in British boxing history," he says. "I came out with damaged nerves, a damaged jaw, urinating blood for three days and a shadow on my brain.  [McClellan] came out paralysed, blind, 80 per cent deaf and in a wheelchair."

He's since helped spearhead fundraisers for the stricken McClellan who’s struggling to pay for his ongoing medical expenses.

Benn also helps disadvantaged kids in Blacktown learn the boxing basics at the local PCYC.  And his experience dealing with racism growing up in London gives him a unique insight into the problem.

"I came out with damaged nerves, a damaged jaw, urinating blood for three days and a shadow on my brain.  [McClellan] came out paralysed, blind, 80 per cent deaf and in a wheelchair."

"You know what, when I was a kid I said to myself my skin colour isn’t going to stop me achieving what I want regardless of what colour I was,  so I don’t want these kids to have that mentality," he says.

The "Dark Destroyer" entered the World Boxing Council Hall of Fame in 2013 alongside Joe Calzaghe as the greatest ever Super-Middleweights. 

But the only accolades Nigel Benn cares about now are helping his family and his church community find the happiness and fulfilment he’s fought so hard for all his life. 

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or follow @LifelineAust @OntheLineAus @kidshelp @beyondblue @headspace_aus @ReachOut_AUS on Twitter.

Source SBS

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