Gerald McClellan wakes up in his Freeport, Ill., home every morning, believing it is night because of the perpetual darkness that surrounds him, and grows confused and angry when his request to head for the gym and begin training for his next fight is ignored.
"Gerald doesn't understand that he is permanently blind and can't walk without help," said his sister and co-guardian, Lisa McClellan. "He can't comprehend that he'll never fight again."
The only fighting now taking place is between his legal guardians and boxing promoter Don King over who is responsible for the former middleweight champion's mounting medical bills. The bills began to accumulate after McClellan was left unconscious in a London ring last Feb. 25, after being knocked out in the 10th round by British super middleweight Nigel Benn.
McClellan, 28, underwent 3 1/2 hours of emergency surgery at Royal London Hospital to remove a blood clot on his brain and then spent two months in a coma that left him blind and partially paralyzed.
McClellan was flown back to the United States and underwent rehabilitation at hospitals in Michigan and Milwaukee. His three sisters, Lisa, Sandra and Stacey, who care for him in daily eight-hour shifts, are looking to place him in a home for the blind and trying to ward off creditors.
"We've used up the $265,000 he had in a trust fund, and we've been selling off his cars and the other houses he owned to try and stay even," Lisa McClellan said.
"It's very stressful. We've given up our lives to take care of Gerald. We take him to therapy three times a week -- each session costs $500 -- and we're not even talking about his medicine and the cost of caring for his three children. We don't want people to forget he is in need."
The main person the McClellan sisters don't want to forget is King, who staged the McClellan-Benn championship bout along with London promoter Frank Warren.
Charges and countercharges were hurled yesterday during a King conference call with boxing writers in which the powerful promoter answered Lisa McClellan's accusations.
She said King reneged on a public promise to pay for her brother's rehabilitation and could not account for a $100,000 insurance policy that the sanctioning World Boxing Council provides for protection against career-ending injuries to one of its title contestants.
"I think Gerald should be a dependent of King as long as he needs medical care," Lisa McClellan said."
"She's working with the FBI trying to destroy me," said King, who is facing a retrial for insurance fraud after the government's first case ended in a mistrial last fall. "I'm being used as a pawn in this thing when I've only tried to help her and her brother."
King sent out an itemized fax to all interested reporters, documenting expenses incurred by McClellan and his family before and after his fight with Benn.
According to King's accounting, McClellan was guaranteed a purse of $200,000, plus $50,215.37 in expenses. By the time all deductions were made, including $119,279.25 to pay off former managers John Davimos and Emanuel Steward, McClellan was left with $54,000.
"I never received a penny from McClellan," Steward said yesterday. "I don't even know how much he made."
King and Warren insisted that they paid money to the McClellans far beyond their responsibilities as promoters and paid in advance the $100,000 in insurance while the disposition of the WBC policy is still being traced.
"We didn't deduct anything from his purse and spent $160,000 for his father and girlfriend to fly over to London on a Concorde and stay in London at a five-star hotel," said Warren. "We also spent $90,000 for an air ambulance to fly him back to America even though the London doctors advised against it."
King gained support from McClellan's father, Emmit, who lost a court battle for guardianship. His daughter, Lisa, accused him of accepting $25,000 in "hush money" from King.
"I had to quit my [auto leasing] job to take care of my son when he first came back to the States," Emmit McClellan said. "Don King helped me out and sent me another $25,000 to put in Gerald's trust fund.
"My daughter is being misled. I understand the FBI offered her $50,000 to make a statement against King. But I'm the one who should be Gerald's legal guardian. I'm his father, and I made him a world champion."
Gerald McClellan, who can converse but has short-term memory problems, is unaware of the tumult surrounding him.
"But most of the time he's angry and striking out at someone," Lisa McClellan said. "He has good times and bad times."