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Ex-Fighter Doesn't Accept That He's Blind   AP 1995 Associated Press

NEW YORK - Gerald McClellan can't understand why he's not training for his next fight. The former middleweight champion doesn't realize he's in a lifelong fight because of brain damage suffered in a  bout against Nigel Benn in London almost a year ago.
     He's in the dark, literally and figuratively an object of sisterly love, the reason for a family feud over his care. "Right now he's totally blind, and it looks like he always will be," says sister Lisa McClellan. "He's not aware he's blind. He thinks it's just dark or somebody's turned out the lights. He suffered severe brain damage. " Lisa, 26, and her sisters, Sandra, 31, and Stacey, 24, take care of their 28-year-old brother in their hometown of Freeport, Ill. They work round the clock in eight-hour shifts, although all have children of their own to care for.

     "We've given up everything to take care of Gerald," Linda said.The sisters, all nurses aides, went to court to prevent their father, Emmite McClellan Sr., from becoming Gerald's legal guardian, contending he left Gerald alone a couple of times while he and his son were living together after the ill-fated fight last Feb. 25. Linda Shorter, an aunt, is the guardian. Emmite Sr. and his daughters also are at odds over the role played by Don King in the financial care of McClellan. Lisa contends King has talked a better game than he has played in helping her brother. The father sides with King, as does Angela Brown, mother of McClellan's baby daughter.

     McClellan also has two other children with different mothers. "We have enough money to last for the next year or two," Lisa said. Since successful surgery to remove a blood clot, McClellan has withstood two strokes, Lisa said in a conference call set up by the Boxing Writers Association of America. She also has been told that he had a heart attack shortly after the fight, but that there is no medical record of it.

     McClellan, who returned home in August after stays in various hospitals, has fought back to a degree of normalcy. He dresses every day, walks about the house, sits at the table for his meals. He also can converse, but his short-term memory is poor and his long-term memory is selective. "He has good days," Lisa said. "He laughs. He talks. He's happy. Then he has days where he says, "Something bad happened to me," and he wants to die." There also are bouts of anger by a man who appears to be resisting accepting reality. "We're using various medications to get his behavior under control, so we can go ahead with his rehabilitation," Lisa said.

     Part of McClellan's rehabilitation is walking on a treadmill. "We have to tell him he's at the gym," Lisa said. "We have a hard time trying to get him to understand there is something wrong with him." McClellan was the kind of fighter who brings a crowd to its feet. A 6-foot-1 power puncher, who backed up that power with speed and toughness. He won the WBC middleweight (160-pound) championship by stopping Julian Jackson in the fifth round May 8, 1993, then successfully defended it three times in bouts that lasted 30 seconds, 97 seconds and 93 seconds, respectively. That is a total 3 1/2 minutes, 30 seconds longer than one full round.

     His record was 31-2, with 29 knockouts, 28 of them in three rounds or less. It looked like his challenge to Benn, of Britain, for the WBC supermiddleweight title would result in another quick victory. He knocked Benn out of the ring early in the first round, and some ringsiders felt Benn should have been counted out. McClellan knocked down Benn again in the eighth, but McClellan had taken some hard shots to the head, too. In the ninth round, McClellan sunk to his knees, claiming he had been butted in the head. McClellan was knocked down twice and counted out in the 10th round, then staggered to his corner and collapsed.

     "He talked about the fight when he first came home," Lisa said. "He kept asking if he got knocked out. He remembered being on the canvas."