Ring Magazine’s 27th greatest puncher of all time. 31 wins, only 3 losses, with 29 of those wins coming by way of knockout.
February 25, 1995 — Gerald McClellan knocks world champion Nigel Benn through the ropes in the first round. He drops the champion again in the eighth. An exciting, life-changing fight. The lights are blinding; the noise is deafening; the crowd is on its feet. Then Gerald takes a knee. Wait. What? Why is the referee counting? Oh, but wait, he’s up — he’s fine. No, no he’s not. He’s down again. Then there’s more noise, more mayhem. Paramedics. An ambulance.
Rewind. Oh, there it is. A collision of heads — just part of the earlier action, expected as part of the inside action of a brawl for the world title. But after that, Gerald’s blinking, and blinking, and blinking some more. He’s rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. Weeks pass, and he is still in a coma. He eventually awakens, but is extensively brain damaged, blind, and partially deaf, suffering a profound loss of short-term memory. Over time he reacquires the ability to walk, but only with a cane (the wheelchair makes life easier). Gerald is never alone again, though — 24-7 care costing more than $100,000 per year.
Gerald’s career earnings? Soon to be gone, and he’s thereafter perpetually dependent upon the generosity of family and friends and strangers.
Unfortunately, Gerald’s case isn’t unique, and it isn’t uncommon. Boxers often end up suffering from a multitude maladies, including, quite commonly and visibly, from Parkinson’s disease or a slightly-lesser form of the disease known as Parkinsonism. Most will suffer some memory loss, tremors, and loss of balance, speech, and motor skills. Just as bad, emotional breakdowns, angry outbursts, Dementia Pugilistica (also known as “punch-drunk syndrome”) — or its variant form, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, will eventually affect 15 to 20 percent of former boxers.
In short, these modern-day gladiators are often unable to lead a normal life after their time in the ring has passed. Many in need of psychiatric care go undiagnosed and untreated — and end up homeless, drug-addicted, or completely destitute.
Hall of Famer Terry Norris and his wife Tanya have founded The Final Fight—The Terry Norris Foundation. The Foundation collaborates with grantors, private donors, and other service providers to ensure that resources are available to those retired fighters in need guidance, assistance, and care. We partner with these resource providers to help retired boxers obtain many of the essentials in our society, including health care, health insurance, financial services, nutrition and fitness counseling, and life management skills.
Our ultimate mission is to serve these underserved athletes with passion, respect and love; to help them not just after their career has ended, but throughout their lives as they plan for the inevitable day when the bright lights and adoring public are nothing more than a distant memory. The Final Fight helps its clients develop a comprehensive life plan with the intent of helping them obtain their wildest dreams, and in the process, to build and protect assets and relationships for a more-meaningful life after leaving the sport we so dearly love.