ESPN.com - BOXING - A light in the darkness

 
Tuesday, June 3
A light in the darkness




It hasn't been easy to be Lisa McClellan these last few weeks, or for that matter, the last eight years -- ever since her brother Gerald was permanently injured in a brutal war with Nigel Benn in 1995.

But the last few weeks have been harder, as she struggles against the apathy of much of the boxing community to put together a fundraiser for her brother and former heavyweight champ Greg Page this Saturday at the Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, Ill.

McClellan and Page Benefit Info
Tickets, priced at $100 per plate, are available by calling Ear Wax Records at 815-233-5460. Tickets may also be purchased at the door, but to ensure premium seating, reservations are encouraged.

For more information, please contact Lisa McClellan by e-mail at lisamcclellan99@aol.com.

The Clock Tower Resort is located at 7801 East State Street in Rockford, Ill. Their phone number is 815-398-6000.

If you are unable to attend this event, but would still like to make a tax deductible donation, you can mail your check or money order, made payable to Gerald McClellan Trust to:
Gerald McClellan Trust C/O Fifth Third Bank PO Box 120 Freeport, IL 61032

Lisa says ticket sales are "very, very slow" for the event, and hopefully those disgusted with the latest on-again, off-again circus around the Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne bout, scheduled to occur on the same night, will boost attendance a bit.

Yet more disturbing to Ms. McClellan has been the apathy from her brother's peers in the fight game, many of whom don't want to see Gerald -- the secret the industry doesn't want to talk about; the mirror image of what could happen to any active fighter today.

"These fighters ought to want to see Gerald so they can know that this could happen, and that this is not an isolated incident," said Lisa. "This is something that they're going to be faced with every time they get into the ring, and maybe it would help them put some pressure on these promoters and managers to make sure they're taken care of."

Bucking this trend by committing to attend Saturday's event are active standouts like flyweight champion Eric Morel and lightweight contender Angel Manfredy, and retired greats Gerry Cooney, Michael Spinks and McClellan's favorite fighter of all-time, Thomas Hearns.

And though he won't be in attendance on Saturday due to his impending bout with John Ruiz, Roy Jones Jr. has never shied away from helping out his amateur rival financially, in fact, Ms. McClellan has said on a number of occasions that no one has helped her brother more than the light heavyweight king. His reasons for doing so are simple.

"I know that nobody cared and I've explained to young fighters that you have to realize that every time you step up there, you're on your own," said Jones. "Right now, nobody else even cares pretty much about how Gerald is doing from the boxing world. And there are people that are tied with this sport that could go out and do different things to help him. But not many people do. As a matter of fact, HBO did help me to do stuff for Gerald, but that's about it. There are things that people can do, but they don't care. You look at him and it makes you realize, well, what would they do for you? You go put your life on the line and get hurt up, what will they do for you? You go look at Gerald and you see that they don't do nothing, pretty much."

But Jones has never visited McClellan either. Many feel he will never fight again if he does see him. And as recently as two days ago, when asked his initial reaction when McClellan got injured, Jones shooed away the question, saying, "I really don't want to get into that right now."

This is of little consolation to Lisa, who saw a handful of fighters and industry people (Ricardo Williams Jr., Paulie Malignaggi, Lou DiBella, Bernard Hopkins, Brian Adams, Wally Matthews, Teddy Blackburn, Mark Breland) visit with her brother when he came to the Boxing Writers Association of America dinner in April of last year, but little else before or since.

"Do you get in a car accident and then never drive again?" asked Lisa. "It's an excuse, and a lousy excuse. Nobody wants to acknowledge what's real. And this is real. And I hope and pray that every last one of those guys that made that excuse never have to face what we've had to face with Gerald."

What she faces is 24 hour a day care of a 35-year-old man who is blind, nearly deaf, and confined to a wheelchair. And there's little hope in sight for any continued improvement. Recently, Gerald lost nearly 80 pounds and cancer was suspected as the culprit. Luckily a visit to the Mayo Clinic quieted those fears as merely a treatable thyroid condition.

But every visit to the doctor costs money, money that McClellan has little, if any of. Medicare takes care of a large chunk of his medical costs, but the family has to absorb any fees the insurance doesn't cover, and if the G-Man's trust fund can't cover it, Lisa and her sisters have to.

Donations to the trust find fluctuate, basically increasing when McClellan is thrust into the public eye via television features or news articles, and dropping when he falls back into the obscurity of his Freeport home. One thing is constant, though, and that's the fans, who haven't forgotten the man who terrorized the middleweight division in the early and mid-'90s.

"I guess that's all that we have left," said an appreciative Lisa. "It's what keeps the whole situation going."

For every phone hung up on her or door slammed in her face, Lisa, who admits that she is "emotionally, physically, and mentally drained," by the whole ordeal, has a story of a fan that has touched her heart. From the man in Florida suffering with his own brain disorder who made the banner for Saturday's event to the child who sent his life savings of four dollars in a card with a letter, it's the boxing fans that keep Lisa motivated.

And it's not easy. A mother of a daughter, as well as a nursing student, Lisa McClellan has precious little time for herself. But despite the hardships and the hundreds of dollars in phone bills as she tries to get the boxing community to come out for her brother, she keeps doing it.

"I know that as long as I'm in the picture, he's going to be taken care of," said Lisa. "I'm not going to leave that responsibility to anyone else and have to wonder if he's clean, if he's mistreated, if he's loved, if he's taken care of. I know if I do it myself, I know it's done."

And like her brother, she's a fighter.