Ailing Ex-Champ Facing Colon-Removal Surgery
At their peak, our favorite boxing champs seem invincible–strong, healthy, forever in their glory. Sadly, there’s the other side of boxing–the darker side–where after the limelight fades, things don’t turn out quite so rosy for many a champ.
Now one ex-world titleholder needs your help.
I was contacted by World Boxing Council (WBC) Cares’ Jill Diamond to help shine the spotlight on a champ in dire straits. Jill, a WBC/NABF Chairperson, is always the first one to reach out to others in need. This time, she asked me to help spread the word about former WBC Middleweight Champion Gerald McClellan (31-3, 29 KOs), who will soon be having surgery for a complete colon removal. After his now infamous bout versus WBC Super Middleweight Champ Nigel Benn back in 1995, Gerald, now 44, suffered permanent damage after the 10th-round knockout resulting in the boxing hero collapsing and suffering a blood clot that resulted in a coma, brain damage, loss of eyesight, inability to comprehend (memory loss) and unable to walk. And now he will be undergoing the colon removal surgery this month.
“We want to help; he’s on the decline,” WBC/NABF’s Diamond told me. “Michele, if you could please get the word out…I think we have to get the word out! It’s difficult because it’s a side of sports that no one wants to think about. But we must try and support him.”
McClellan’s story is another tragedy in boxing and I’m personally asking all “CHATTER BOX” readers to please contribute what you can to help the ailing warrior, whose health is rapidly on the decline. In light of the recent death of New Mexico icon Johnny Tapia and the shocking news of Paul Williams’ motorcycle accident and subsequent paralysis, there’s been a lot of sad news in the sweet science. With “The G-Man” McClellan needing any financial aid possible, it’s our chance to help another in the boxing community–before it’s too late.
In honor of the fighters who risk their life in the ring, please consider making a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION to the care of the former slugger, who went out on his shield after that fateful championship match in London. He is currently being cared for by his sisters but as you can imagine, the cost of operations, therapy, medicine, equipment and doctors’ visits are sky high. Medical costs reportedly are over $75,000 a year, just for the champ’s care alone.
WBC President Jose Sulaiman and WBC Executive Secretary Mauricio Sulaiman are also lending strong support to McClellan’s cause. “We all have a common goal which is to find a way to help Gerald and his sisters,” Mauricio said as a new effort is being formed to assist the ex-WBC titlist. The famed organization has also instated a special pension and monthly contributions for the fallen champ, who won his WBC green and gold belt after defeating Julian Jackson. In breaking news that just came in today, the legendary WBC is making a very generous donation to the cause. “The WBC has gotten response and will make a $5,000 donation with the efforts of the WBC INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE and Mauro Betti,” World Boxing Council Executive Director/Secretary Mauricio Sulaiman shared in an email I received this afternoon.
I also spoke to Gerald’s sister, Lisa McClellan Jordan, today, to find out how the champ is faring these days. His sisters, Lisa and Sandra, have been instrumental in caring for their brother. “I just spoke to the surgeon this morning,” she says. “The surgery will now be on June 22. My sister Sandra (who has renal failure) will also have surgery after my brother’s…It’s just the two of us now taking care of him. There used to be five of us but now it’s just us.” Gerald also has a son, Gerald McClellan Jr.; “Little G-Man” is also a fighter.
Times are tough for the McClellan family but the champ and his siblings try to stay strong and keeping their faith alive throughout this years-long ordeal. “It’s been 17 years now; individual fans from England have been really supportive,” Lisa, whose had her own health issues, tells me. “The fans in England have been great, along with the Sulaimans, the WBC, Frank Garza and others. But we still need to get the word out.”
In today’s boxing climate, it’s Mayweather, Pacquiao and Canelo who get all the ink and adoration from boxing fans. So I’m here to remind you to remember our champs from the past–fighters like Gerald McClellan, perhaps long forgotten in boxing circles.
The McClellans live two hours west of Chicago and rarely make it out to boxing-centric cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York. “The last time we came out to L.A. was for Gerald’s induction into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006,” the champion’s sis recalls. “With all the surgeries coming up I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere in the future.”
In addition to the WBC, the Sulaimans and Jill Diamond, several others have stepped in to lend support for the pound for pound puncher, who was trained by noted coach Emanuel Steward of Kronk Boxing.
WBC/NABF official Frank Garza has implemented his own grassroots campaign to seek donations (matched by the WBC) in order to pay for Gerald’s monthly care. Garza has diligently led a team in gathering monthly sponsors to match the donations of the WBC for the “Gerald McClellan Trust” fund. WBC Official Stephen Blea has also stepped in to aid the fallen champion–who’s in desperate need of help in way of financial contributions.
I know in today’s economic climate, financial donations are becoming scarce. But I think we can all give up a day of Starbucks or cut back on one meal to help someone who really needs it. The former WBC and WBO champ gave us blood, sweat and tears in those four corners. But unfortunately, he left his health and well being behind.
Attorney John P. Rutledge also gave me an update about the colon removal surgery that was originally slated for last month, now scheduled for June 22.
“The latest news is that Gerald has been in the hospital twice in the past couple of months, and had surgery for a seriously impacted bowel a few weeks ago. The procedure lasted about 45 minutes, and was only a temporary stopgap as neither bowel appears to be functioning,” John explains. “He’s due for a complete colon removal; he’s got several more tests that need to be run and re-run before then (at $5,000 per test).”
Rutledge was first enlisted to help by another WBC champ in Terry Norris. “Terry and his wife Tanya asked me to help,” John mentioned to me during a catch-up call this morning.
After the brutal Nigel Benn war, McClellan has been left in the care of his two sisters, with one also battling severe health issues.
“Gerald’s sisters have almost exclusively taken care of him since he suffered his injury 17-plus years ago. The older of those sisters is now forced to have a kidney transplant, leaving Lisa, the other sister, as the sole caregiver for both her brother and her sister,” attorney Rutledge adds. “Unfortunately, while Gerald is in the hospital (which will be weeks, and maybe months), neither Lisa nor her sister receive their caregiver payments from the State of Illinois. With all the medical bills and the lack of caregiver payments, times are harder now than ever before for the McClellan family. Any assistance we can garner for them would, of course, be greatly appreciated!”
“Every little bit helps,” Lisa McClellan agrees.
I ask her how her favorite champion is doing.
“He’s just doing okay,” she says quietly. “He can hear but he can’t comprehend the information with the memory loss from brain damage. He’s also got short-term memory so when I remind him he has his surgery coming up, the next day he doesn’t remember!”
The hard-punching prizefighter sacrificed his life for his love of the sweet science. Cut down in the prime of his life, now relegated to life in a wheelchair or a hospital bed. In a tragic and bittersweet turn of events, the champion gained glory on a world stage but gave up his health in the process. “In the ring you have to go to war, and in war you have to be prepared to die. That’s what boxing is…” the guts-and-glory boxer had said.
The champ is counting on us. This is joint effort within the boxing community–which is like a second family for many of us.
“Thank you to everyone,” Lisa tells me as our conversation concludes. “Thanks so much for calling and for all your help. God Bless.”
Gerald McClellan continues his battle to survive. Prayers and well wishes for the “G-Man.”
Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to:
GERALD McCLELLAN TRUST
839 East Wyandotte Street
FREEPORT, IL 61032
(Checks can be made out to the GERALD MCCLELLAN TRUST)
Photos courtesy of Lisa McClellan