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Brain damage leaves McClellan in dark // Now blind, former boxer wonders why he can't fight

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," said 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 8-hour shifts, although all have children of their own to care for.

"We've given up everything to take care of Gerald," Lisa said.

The sisters, all nurses' aides, went to court to prevent their father, Emmit 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.

Emmit 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.

Copyright 1996 Star Tribune