The Sad Story of Oliver McCall


Oliver McCall crying in the ring? McCall suffered a mental breakdown during his fight with heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. What we saw that night wasn’t a fight, it was a grown man having a breakdown in the ring. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – we’d seen him in the build-up, at the press conferences, walking around the hotel, and he was fine. I hadn’t heard that anything was wrong. In the fourth round he was acting really strange and then we saw George Benson in his corner, slapping McCall across his face, and the next thing is he starts crying. Someone shouted across to us that something was wrong, but our corner was focused on Lennox, telling him just to keep doing what he was doing, throwing his jabs.

The next round McCall came out, didn’t do too much, then he turned around and walked away and the referee stopped the fight. After that I don’t remember too much, because we went into celebration mode – we’d got the title back.

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We realised, though, after the fight, that we’d witnessed a man break down. Our celebrations weren’t anywhere near what we’d normally have. I think it was quite muted. The conversations were about what we’d just seen. I went with my wife, we had something to eat, and we sat and talked to Lennox for a while. The longer it went after the fight, there was more of a … shall we say a cloud over the place. There wasn’t the normal celebrations and joy that one would have after winning.

After the fight, stuff started coming out about his drug problem, that there was a psychologist on his team. We’d heard that he was being kept under lock and key in the build-up, but that was also what happened before the first time he fought Lennox and he won that one. I think the people who were responsible for McCall should have been punished if they knew anything about his mental state, but we were totally unaware of it. He’d passed all his medicals, he’d done his training. But someone close to him must have known what was going on.

I’ve seen boxers cry before, more from frustration usually, or maybe with happiness after winning a fight. This time we saw a grown man, fighting for the most prestigious title in the world, on live television and in front of a big audience, have a breakdown. For me personally it was a very sad occasion.

When people think of McCall, they shouldn’t think about this fight. When I think of him, I think of the man who knocked Lewis out at Wembley Arena. On his day, he was deadlier than any other heavyweight out there, but unfortunately he had a lot of psychological problems. You know, in Vegas, nothing surprises you. You can always expect the unexpected in Vegas, but I must say that was one of the more bizarre fights I’ve ever been involved in.



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