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One Last Chance For Benn

November 8, 1996

MANCHESTER, England (AP) _ After twice announcing his retirement, Nigel Benn is making another attempt to regain the WBO super-middleweight title from Ireland’s Steve Collins.

The last time they met, Benn twisted an ankle while falling to the floor. He got up, but could barely move or defend himself, and the fight was stopped in Collins’ favor in the fourth round.

As soon as it ended, the 32-year-old veteran of 15 world title fights announced his retirement. At a news conference 20 minutes later, he changed his mind and said he wanted a rematch with the Irishman.

Benn also ``retired″ after losing his previous fight and the WBO title to South Africa’s Thulane ``Sugar Boy″ Malinga in March. He changed his mind a week later.

So what makes Saturday’s fight any different?

Benn has kept a low profile since his last loss in the same Manchester Nynex Arena in July, and only arrived in England from his Tenerife training camp Friday. He failed to show up for the head-to-head news conference and that angered Collins.

``I have tremendous respect for what Nigel has achieved in the ring,″ the former USBA middleweight champion said. ``But the public pays our wages and deserve better than this.

``His best days are definitely behind him. ... I’m bigger, stronger and better. I’ll go through him and knock him out this time. He hasn’t got what it takes to resist me.″

Although Benn still has explosive punching power, Collins has good reason to be confident.

His three losses in 36 fights were on points, against Mike McCallum and Reggie Johnson (both for the WBA middleweight title) and Sumbu Kalambay for the European title.

Collins hasn’t lost since October 1992, while Benn hasn’t won since September 1995.

The fight will take place before a near-sellout crowd of 20,000.

Benn apparently sees the fight as a final big payday before he really retires.

He’s also had a big bet on himself to win.

The 5-2 underdog has placed a $240,000 wager on himself. He would get $600,000 if he wins _ in addition to his earnings and TV money.

On the same card, unbeaten Naseem Hamed (23-0) defends the WBO featherweight title for the fourth time, against Argentina’s Remigio Molina, and American Ronald Wright makes the first defense of the WBO light-middleweight title against Britain’s Ensley Bingham.

Hamed, who stopped Manuel Medina in the 11th round in his last defense in August, says he will finish Molina in two rounds, then go looking for bouts against IBF champion Tom ``Boom Boom″ Johnson or WBC bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough.

Molina has won all 27 of his fights but none outside Argentina. This is his first world title match.

Wright’s only loss in 35 fights was a challenge for Julio Cesar Vasquez’ WBA light-middleweight title in August 1994 when he lost on points. He won the WBO crown with a decision over countryman Bronko McKart in May.

Bingham, who lost five of his first 11 fights, is unbeaten in four years. But this is his first shot at a world title at age 33.

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