DARK Destroyer Nigel Benn has predicted a glowing future for the new York boxing gym currently being built by his old world championship foe and friend Henry Wharton.

Benn, the former middleweight and super-middleweight champion of the world, who out-pointed Wharton in February 1994, visited the new gym in Acomb’s York Road and gave it a massive endorsement.

And Wharton, thrilled at the appearance of his one-time rival, revealed exclusively to The Press that a battery of former ring titans have been lined up for the imminent official opening of what will be York’s biggest ever boxing gym.

Ex-world kings Billy Hardy, Johnny Nelson and Glenn McCrory, plus legendary British and European champion Herol Graham, are set to herald the official opening of the 10,000 sq ft premises on the upper floor of the old Regent Cinema.

Declared Wharton: “For Nigel to come here after flying in from his home in Majorca is just fantastic. It’s a measure of the man.”

Benn, who drove up from Stansted airport yesterday, said when he was asked to appear he agreed like a shot.

Ahead of a charity night in Pontefract, followed by three exhibition evenings in Leicester, Manchester and Birmingham before jetting out to Australia to start a new life as a preacher, the 48-year-old Benn said Wharton’s venture would provide a brilliant breeding-ground for future York boxing champions.“Henry and me have been friends from year dot and I know he will make a great success of the new gym,” said Benn.

“Look at the set-up here. It’s a huge place and the way Henry is respectful of the best things about boxing and the way he conducts himself then I am sure this place will produce champions. He will have champions here – I am sure of it.

“And what a good thing Henry is doing. He will be taking kids off the street and getting them started in a sport that will provide them training and discipline and Henry is the man to do it.”

Benn and Henry have been in regular contact since their epic battle at Earl’s Court 18 years ago meeting at several charity boxing events in the intervening years.

Recalled Benn, who reigned as World Boxing Council super- middleweight world boxing for almost four years in the early 1990s: “The fight we had was so punishing that I was urinating blood for three days after. I’m just glad that Henry didn’t really start hitting me until late on in the fight because by that time I had it won.

“He said he used to watch videos of my title fights, but I remember going to see him in his amateur days. He was lethal. It was a good job he didn’t really start until the seventh round in our fight.”

Wharton has always maintained that his best chance of winning a world title was in his first crack at the top prize against Benn, confessing how in the first quarter of the 12-round showdown he had been “in awe” of the Dark Destroyer, as Benn was nicknamed.

The York ring warrior said: “While I lost that bout we have always remained good friends and I am just so pleased that he has taken the time to come here and give his backing to my gym.”