Big Benn turns back the clock

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Saturday night was all right for fighting at Lancaster and Morecambe College sports hall where the legendary NIGEL BENN made a most unlikely boxing comeback. GREG LAMBERT was ringside. Photos by Rachel Landsborough.

INSIDE the ring, Nigel Benn showed glimpses of the ferocious warrior of old.

But once the fighting was over, the man known as ‘The Dark Destroyer’ was just a cuddly teddy bear.

The two-time world boxing champion had time for everyone as he shook hands, posed for photos and signed autographs.

The born-again Christian even planted kisses on the cheeks of surprised and delighted fans who queued to meet him.

Earlier, the boxing legend had been throwing punches to cheeks - namely those of Frank Harrington.

Benn, 48, boxed three entertaining rounds with Harrington, a local ex-pro, trainer and promoter of the event.

The hard-punching Londoner was in terrific shape and looked as sharp as ever.

Frank, 50, had also trained hard for his first fight since his 21-bout pro career ended in 1993.

The atmosphere was electric inside the sports hall as the MC introduced the boxers.

Although the three-round clash was billed as a friendly ‘exhibition’, once the bell rang both men took it seriously, throwing and landing solid blows.

Harrington caught Benn with a left-right combination in the first round. Nigel smiled with appreciation and the combatants touched gloves in sportsmanship.

At the end of each round, the two men hugged as the fans cheered the impressive action.

By the third and final round, ‘The Dark Destroyer’ was putting on a real show. He drove Frank to the ropes with a speedy six-punch combination. Although Benn didn’t put full power into the punches, Harrington’s nose was bloodied. Still, Frank gamely kept on coming forward, doing himself justice as he’d promised he would.

At the final bell the fighters embraced to warm applause. Nigel took the microphone and thanked the crowd for supporting him through the “highs and lows” of his 48-fight boxing career.

Harrington said: “It was by far the best show I’ve ever put on and I’ve fulfilled a lifelong dream by being in the ring with one of my heroes.”

Funds were also raised on the night for The Twins Appeal, in aid of Lancaster teenagers Katie and Emma Sutcliffe who need a life-changing operation to help them walk unaided.

A packed crowd of fight fans, who paid £70 per ticket, enjoyed a three-course meal served by the college’s hospitality and catering students.

Comedian Jimmy Bright had everyone in stitches with a 30-minute routine before the boxing began.

In other fight results on the show, Dave Standen of Morecambe beat Danny Payne of Blackpool by first round knockout, ex-pro Marcus Duncan from Morecambe scored a points win over Andy Crossman of Lancaster in an excellent bout, Steven Douglas outpointed Aaron Helliwell in a thrilling contest, and Tony Morgan from Lancaster beat Martin Phillips on points.

Mr Harrington thanked sponsors Jo & Cass and The Sultan restaurant, Lancaster and Morecambe College and Go Morecambe.