THERE were increased calls yesterday for a total ban on professional

boxing, following the ringside collapse of American boxer Gerald

McClellan at WBC super-middleweight title fight. His opponent, the

British boxer Nigel Benn, hinted he might quit the sport.

Among those demanding a ban was Mr Sam Galbraith, a neurosurgeon and

the Labour MP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden.

''How many more people have to die or be maimed before we call a

halt?'' asked Mr Galbraith, who made a special study of head injuries to

boxers when he worked as a neurosurgeon at the Southern General

Hospital, Glasgow.

''Surely in a civilised society this sort of assault cannot

continue,'' he said. ''Medical back-up is all very well, but it really

comes in too late. The purpose of boxing is to inflict brain damage,''

he said.

Although speaking against Labour Party policy, Mr Galbraith called

upon the Government to act against professional boxing.

''All it requires is the political will to do it. The Government, with

all its other problems, does not want to get into something like this --

MPs would rather bring in bills about animals than humans,'' he said.

The contest, in which Benn put McClellan down for the full count in

round 10 of a brutal contest, has reopened the debate about safety in


Although tighter medical controls have been introduced in recent years

-- two doctors, an anaesthetist, two para-medic teams, and an ambulance

were standing by at Saturday's fight -- some medical experts believe

that the only way to ensure boxers' safety is to ban the professional


Mr Galbraith did not call for a ban on amateur boxing, pointing out

that not only did it produce many social benefits, but it was also far

more rigorously controlled.

McClellan, 27, had been expected to beat Benn, 31. Since September

1990, McClellan had completed only 10 rounds in a total of 14 fights, as

he knocked over a succession of opponents in the early rounds,

demonstrating his impressive punching power.

A 12,000 capacity crowd in the London Arena on the Isle of Dogs, in

London's Docklands, saw McClellan slump on his haunches and then slip

flat on his back. He was given oxygen, his neck was put in a brace, and

injections were administered, and then taken to the Royal London

Hospital's trauma unit.

Yesterday, neurosurgeon John Sutcliffe, who spent much of the night

operating to remove a blood clot from McClellan's brain, said the boxer

had a ''good chance'' of surviving.

He told a news conference at the Royal London Hospital: ''It would be

fair to say he is stable, but things could take a change for the better

or worse over the next 48 hours.''

Mr Sutcliffe, who is a member of the British Boxing Board of Control

committee which is due to report on better medical care for fighters

later this year, said he did not believe boxing should be banned.

But he added: ''I wondered at the end of the first round if Nigel Benn

was going to be the candidate I would be seeing.''

Among the audience at Saturday night's fight was the former British

boxer Michael Watson who suffered a similar injury almost four years ago

in a fight with Chris Eubank. He is only partially recovered and is

confined to a wheelchair.

Benn was also given a medical examination after the fight. Yesterday,

he appeared dazed and was choked with emotion as he spoke falteringly to

reporters outside his home in Beckenham, Kent, and suggested he might

end his boxing career after his ''empty'' victory.

He said: ''It's not that I can't take it, but I'm not going to take a

battering like that again in my life. Maybe if he is all right it will

be different. I've been up all night thinking about Gerald McClellan. I

just feel so empty.

''It may have been a superb fight, but at the end of the day someone

was injured and it has taken it all away. It (the title victory) does

not mean anything now. I am very, very upset about it. I'm very

distressed with the way things went.''

He added: ''I'm in a lot of pain myself. I've never been like this

before. I feel battered from pillar to post. I feel dizzy.''

His manager Peter De Freitas, who visited the hospital to find out how

McClellan was faring, gave no indication, however, that Benn planned to

give up fighting.

He said: ''Nigel is very upset by what has happened. He is very, very

sore himself. We thought he had a broken jaw but it's just heavy

bruising on his face. Nigel said that man punches like a donkey kicks.''

He said Benn would have three more fights in defence of the WBC title

before the end of the year.

''Nigel will want to retire at the end of this year anyway, but we

will fight in Britain. This guy McClellan was brought here for a

mission, to take our championship belt back, and he failed,'' he said.

The managers of both boxers were both angry that the fight officials

were unable to speak English. But Mr De Freitas described allegations

that the referee had allowed Benn too long to recover from his first

round knock-down as ''a disgrace''.

The British Medical Association yesterday renewed its appeal to ban

boxing. A spokesman said: ''How many more cases do we need of boxers

playing roulette with their brains before the Government and the Board

of Control take seriously what we say about the cumulative danger that

boxing does.

''In the past (the British Boxing Board of Control) said that we were

being zealots about it, but in our view thhere is medical evidence that

is quite clear.'' He added that the BMA would like to see blows to the

head banned.

But a Department of Health spokesman said last night's tragedy did not

strengthen the case for outlawing boxing.

He said: ''If we banned boxing it would go underground and it would

not be regulated as it is now.''

Mr Gerry Woolard, an administrative steward of the British Boxing

Board of Control, said he did not believe that a ban would ever be


''It is a dangerous sport and we accept it is a dangerous sport. But

in Britain I believe we have the finest administration and medical

controls there can be at this time. We do every mortal thing we can to

make it as safe a sport as we possible can,'' he said.

Labour sports spokesman and former boxer Tom Pendry called for full

reassurances that the BBBC was doing everything in its power to minimise

the risk of injury.

''Labour rejects the idea of a ban on boxing. A ban would serve only

to drive the sport underground where unregulated bouts would prove far

more dangerous and where the Queensberry rules would not apply,'' he