AFTER a glittering and lucrative 12 year career in the ring surrounded by drugs, women, gangsters, violence and greed, former WBO Middleweight and Super Middleweight champion Nigel Benn has found happines, inner peace, a new family home and spiritual guidance in Majorca. The Dark Destroyer claims to have finally defeated the demons that tested him throughout his boxing career, driving him to the brink of suicide in 1998. Since setting up home in Majorca on November 1 last year, the former Royal Fusilier and his second wife Caroline have fallen in with the ranks of the Salvation Army. However, Benn, who last year starred on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here to raise funds for charity, was initially very reluctant to come to Majorca. My wife had come on a package holiday and I thought no way, I'm San Francisco, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Barbados, Jamaica, not this package holiday stuff. I got here and thought I'm in Majorca, get me out of here, he said discussing his life at the Salvation Army centre in Son Caliu. But it's funny what the Lord's done; he brought me here, Benn added. And I mean that... Benn, born in Ilford, Essex on January 22, 1964, intends to dedicate his life now to his family and to helping people. I'm no public speaker. I can't get up and preach, but I can tell my story and do things to help, he says, and he talks as straight as he can punch. Needless to say, while his wife was on holiday in Majorca, Caroline found a flat too but she wasn't supposed to be house hunting you know, says Benn with a grin. It was just by chance. She came home and nagged me to go to Majorca, but it didn't sound like my cuppa tea, but she dragged me out here, away from good old England that I loved. I was sitting on the plane, still fuming, my agent has messed up the bookings and we did not know where we were booked to be staying, so I'm sitting on the plane, angry and picked up the Daily Bulletin, and started leafing through the ads and spotted this apartment; got to the airport, headed for one of the accommodation offices and asked directions to this property and a hotel nearby. Great, we ended up in a £50 a night place in Palmanova, not the £1500 a night I'm used to and I'm already missing my cable TV, all I got was BBC 24 and I'm like, get me out of here. We were supposed to have been in Puerto Pollensa.
So, to cut a long story short (no future as a public speaker), I had lost interest in the apartment but my wife managed to talk me into looking round the place with her instead of relaxing on the beach. We got there, I opened the door and I was well impressed, the view. I tried to keep cool, but the agent could see I was impressed and by the time we had finshed, I had bought another larger one nearby - unbelievable - and something just hit me like man; this is where I want to be with my kids and my wife. I never realised all this existed just round the corner from England. Back in the UK, sorting the business out, Benn could not stay away from the island and decided that he wanted to sell up in England, buy a house in Majorca and set up a new home. Benn came out house hunting but found nothing. However, when he came back again with his wife, it all fell into place. Agents had been trying to get Benn to look at a house on top of the hill in Santa Ponsa, but he resisted. Later though, he visited the property with Caroline, allowing her to drag him up there. When she came, she was looking for a house; didn't happen because the Lord would not let it happen; same with me, but when we both came out here, united together, we found the two apartments and the unbelievable house and everything has been so easy on the island, getting the kids in school, nothing's been a problem. It's all happened so quickly, it's wonderful, we wake up in the morning, the sun shines, we go swimming, but what's most important is that the Lord's given me the ability to enjoy life and to try and help save souls while living here spending good quality time with my wife and kids, who we can let run around and have fun; not like in England when I made sure they were always safe, by my side, and being able to praise the Lord. So, here in Majorca, it's all been worth it? You're damn right. I don't think my wife and I would last, we couldn't cope if we went back to England; she says she would cry her eyes out. We're a unit now, we're happy and content and don't need much.
It's a different way of life, people are friendly, nice, people speak to you. Here, society's not sinister, it's still family orientated and it's good to be part of that.
No Longer the Dark Destroyer?
No....well, he's in there, he's still there don't worry.
People still call me the Dark Destroyer, here and back in England. That's cool because at the end of the day I'm still the same man; I'm no different. You can try and tempt the Dark Destroyer; he's still in there but I haven't got all that went with him around me. It's nice and it's pleasant. Has God always been part of your life? No, not at all. I lived a simple life - out with the women, out with all the gangsters. You name it, I was around it. Not saying I done it, but I was around it, watching them all doing cocaine, special K, it was all around me but I couldn't do that. It was like the Krays in boxing; gangsters and boxing always go hand in hand. Next minute I've got a posse around me, watching my back for 12 years. Did you need those people behind you? No. But it's true, it all goes together? It just happens. The Essex Boys, Charlie Tucker, they used to walk me out (to the ring) and come training with me in Tenerife. Next thing they get executed in Essex. But they looked after me. So how does someone go from that dark sinister world of boxing, gangsters, drugs, killings to being a member of the Salvation Army in Majorca? I praise God for this. But I had to go through all this - the nervous breakdown, the suicide attempt, all the womanising. I had to go through all the pain and suffering and now I understand why. I had to go through all this to find out what life was all about, to the point where I thought - is this what life is all about - hurting people? Womanising, hurting my kids, hurting my wife and I realised I did not want all this. Yeah. OK, I was always helping people, but I was always thinking of myself.
I started life at en early age, at 12 (years old) I was partying until 5 or 6am. I then did five years in the army, became a world champion boxer with all the millions, but it wasn't until I was on my knees in real pain, pain inside, that I realised what this was all about. When did you find God then? 1998, when I had my last affair. The Lord hit me. For a year I had been thinking about suicide. I was facing an alleged assault charge and a possible sentence of six years in jail. I was fighting for the custody of my kids, which I won. I had a messy divorce which cost me an arm and a leg. I had numerous affairs, I hurt my wife, I defended my world title ten times, I had done it all. You're a winner? Yeah, but the difference is that I realised that there was no way I could have done all that on my own with the devil tempting me every step of the way. He, the Lord, was guiding me. I couldn't have gone through all that, thinking I was invincible all on my own.
I started reading the Bible, going to Christian community lessons and I realised that He gave me the strength; and despite the gangsters and all that crap, the Judge knew I was a good man. I looked after my kids, and paid for them. I fought and won custody. But you've come out even more of a winner, with your kids and a solid marriage. Much more solid now. Me and my wife, we sit on the beach and check out the women, and the men, together and have a laugh. The devil can try and tempt me as much as possible, but the Lord has shown me how to appreciate what I've got and I've managed to ditch all the excess baggage that came with my previous life. It was like in the film Clash of the Titans in which Harry Hamlin plays Perseus who goes through this challenge and that challenge, but he was guided through life all the way and I believe the Lord says - right, here you are, I'm going to throw women at you, I'm going to throw money at you, I'm going to throw gansgsters at you and I'm going to do it for 12 years and I'm going to give you children, a failed marriage, a suicide attempt, I'm going to turn your life into turmoil for twelve years. You know what, I came through, He applauded me and I found Him and can't be happier than that. Don't get me wrong, I've not gone off my trolley like David Ike. I'm just in touch with my feelings and I don't feel bad about letting my emotions out. You fought Chris Eubank twice? Yes, he won one and we drew one. In fact we've just finished making Gladiators which comes out on TV in July. You made a lot of money and still have most of that money. He made probably the same amount of money, but he has not got it any more. What's the problem? We made ten, eleven million Pounds each, but when we started, there was no one looking after us financially, thinking about our future. Thank the Lord for my wife. Although she was only 20 when she met me, she took care of the winnings, invested it all in properties in 1992, leaving me with just a Switch card with a £200 limit. That's why we've still got the money - she's my knight in shining armour. But a lot of fighters do what they want to do and Chris is one of those people. When we were together and before I became Christian, he'd go into a shop and buy a diamaond Rolex for £40'000 and he's got to have it for the authenticity book. Me, I would wheel and deal on the streets and get one for £15.000 but without with the book, but I didn't care. Do you think there's too much money in sport? No, I wish I was a footballer. £70.000 grand to get knocked on the leg and they get the sponge out. No, I'm happy with what I've done. 47.000 people at Old Trafford watching me, over 16.5 million people watching me in the UK on TV and over one billion watching world-wide. Nice to have your name attached to that regardless of how much money you've got. But most of all, the best thing is knowing Him (God.) But don't you think that with the current Beckham saga for example, the amount of money people get paid to kick a ball has reached obscene levels? I can't argue. I would like to see the money spread out more, to the First Division clubs and Second Divison to help other people because all the money's staying in the Premiership. I guess - yes it has gone crazy, but what's it going to be like in another ten years time? The danger for these people on £100'000 a week is that they can get lost in all that money, I was lucky, the Lord saved me just in time and I'm going to invest all the money here in Majorca in setting up a business to hand over to my kids when they grow up. I'm selling up and moving out of Britain. You are very proud to be British. How have you seen Britain change over the past 20 years? People are scared to speak their mind, a lot of what is British has been taken away from Britain.
All these human rights people coming in, changing this, changing that.
You've got to be so carefull nowadays with what you say. Is being a celebrity and or a top sports personality hard in Britain? No, but you can't have one without the other, especially when it comes to the Press. It's great when they're writing lovely things about you, but when you start having affairs, you can't hit back at the media. It's your fault, it was my fault.
I blame me, I don't blame the Press... more power to them I would say. How did you handle the Press? I was good with the sports Press and the gutter Press. Well that's how they make a living and it's people like me... behaving badly, that keeps them in that job.
There are plenty of people who blame the Press, but I would say don't go sleeping around. It's your fault.
But when I used to get a call on the Thursdsay saying there's a big story coming out on Sunday... it was enough to turn a black man white. How do you look at the world of boxing at the moment? Are boxers boxing's worst enemy? No. It's all over. It's gone. You look at all the great boxers over the years, there's no-one now. Boxing's been killed by cable and satellite TV. When it was on terrestrial TV, some 13 or 14 million people would always watch the bout. Now, they don't bother. Pay-per-view and all that. What do you think about Bruno wanting to box again? You not going to get me run another boxer down or anything, but he is too old. At 41, he should not do it. He may be more focused and relaxed, but what goes up, must comes down. We've all past our best. I could still do a good 12 rounds if I wanted to, but the Lord's taken it out of me. Has Lennox Lewis still got it in him? He's still dying for the recognition he deserves. But he will not get it. He's a supreme athlete and he's hungry. In the boxing fraternity, we all know he's the best thing since sliced bread, but the public find it hard to hand it to him. Maybe he's too cool. But I don't really care about boxing any more.
I just want to try and save souls, help people to find the Lord and live that simple life which I think is all the Lord wants me to do now. You want to play an active role? Of course I do. There are people crying out for help and they can turn to me. I will try my best and that's all I can do.
I know that He knows I've got a good heart and like helping people. I'm no preacher man, that's all I can do. Why the Salvation Army? I went to my local Church in Brixton a couple of times and then visited a few others, some were very highbrow, I visited a Gospel church with Praise the Lord and all that, not for me either. All the while my wife had this about the Salvation Amry and one day, dropping my kids off at school here, I bumped into Mayor Federico Larrinaga outside and came along one Sunday and here we are and it's given me the chance to help the old people, the old warriors, real warriors who fought real battles in real wars, but got no millions for their victories.