The Culture of Boxing: Third in a Series

By Ted Sares on October 26, 2011
The Culture of Boxing: Third in a Series
Truth be told, no one really expected Michael Watson to live, much less talk or write.

On February 4, 2004, Michael Watson was awarded the MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II…

Michael Watson

“To be honest, a few months before I started training for the marathon, I could hardly walk across my bedroom without falling over.”—Michael Watson

“He was an inspiration to me throughout it, as he has been to all those who have met him. He is a noble man who, unbowed by a burden which even now would extinguish most of us, took his long walk not for himself but for others less fortunate.”—Peter Hamlyn

“Getting angry won’t correct the past.”—Michael Watson

“If you sit there and watch a person take about an hour to tie his shoestrings, then you realize that whatever problems you got ain’t that significant.”—Vernon Forrest 2006

Chris “Simply the Best” Eubank (45-5-2) fought from 1986 to 1998; Carl “The Cat” Thompson (34-6) duked from 1986 until 2005; Nigel “Dark Destroyer” Benn (42-5-1) did his fearsome work from 1987 to 1996; Michael Watson (25-4-1) toiled from 1984 until 1991. There were many others, but these four traveled on a uniquely fast and furious pathway. For me, one has always stood out, but not for his boxing achievements—which were considerable—but for something else.

Michael Watson

On April 19, 2003, Michael Watson completed the Flora London Marathon, walking two hours each morning and afternoon for six days as he raised money for the Brain and Spine Foundation. He slept overnight in a support bus that followed him. Finishing the race by his side were Chris Eubank and Peter Hamlyn, his neurosurgeon consultant that established the Brain and Spine Foundation 17 years ago, both of whom had become his personal friends. Few who witnessed this emotion-packed moment did not have watery eyes and chills down their spine. It was the culmination of a long fight back after having almost lost his life in the ring against Eubank on Sept. 21, 1991 in what has been called one of the most savage fights in British boxing history. Hell, it was called Britain’s version of Hagler-Hearns.

Both had agility, skill and power and were classy and smart fighters who could adapt for different circumstances and find different ways to win. After a grueling 10 rounds of action, things came to a boil in round 11. It was an incredible and classic ebb and flow three minutes with Eubank tiring badly, but then suddenly rallying and taking it to Watson, hurting him with several hard shots. But this rally almost gassed him, allowing Watson to return the punishment in kind and finally knocking Eubank down with a clubbing right to the head. Then, with Watson ahead on points and seemingly on the verge of a stoppage victory, Eubank got up and immediately connected with a devastating right uppercut which caused Watson to fall back and hit the back of his head against the ropes. His eyes glazed over as the bell rang and he staggered back to his corner. Soon after round 12 began, a helpless Watson was trapped in a corner and referee Roy Francis wisely stopped the fight, after which the London native collapsed in the ring.

There was no ambulance or paramedic(s) at the scene. Several minutes went by. Doctors reportedly wearing dinner jackets then arrived, but Michael received no oxygen. A total of 28 minutes elapsed before he received treatment in a hospital. He spent over a month in a coma and had six brain operations to remove a blood clot. He then spent over a year in intensive care and rehabilitation and six more grueling years in a wheelchair while he ever-so-gradually recovered some movements and regained his ability to speak and write.

Truth be told, no one really expected him to live, much less talk or write. Yet, against all odds, he finished the Marathon in 2003, capturing the hearts and minds of an entire nation. As people wept in joy and urged him on, he walked six days. He reached his goal after 12 long years, too many operations and hospitals to count, and years in a wheelchair. But he trained for months and completed his goal of 26 miles and 385 yards.

Now I could write about the lawsuits that followed, or about his boxing exploits which were considerable. His record was an admirable 25-4-1, and his stoppages over Nigel Benn and Errol Christie were fine achievements. So was his first fight against Eubank in which he lost a highly controversial majority decision by scores of 116–113, 115–113 and 114–114.

But this is not about his boxing record and God knows it’s not about the lawsuits that followed and were won by Michael. No, this is about his incredible fighting heart; this is about what inspiration is all about. And that’s all anyone really needs to know about a very special man named Watson.

Postscript: On Feb. 4, 2004, Michael was awarded the MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

The Culture of Boxing: First in a Series
The Culture of Boxing: Second in a Series
The Culture of Boxing: Third in a Series
The Culture of Boxing: Fourth in a Series

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Chris Eubank v Michael Watson II Part 1/5

Chris Eubank v Michael Watson II Part 2/5

Chris Eubank v Michael Watson II Part 3/5

Chris Eubank v Michael Watson II Part 4/5

Chris Eubank v Michael Watson II Part 5/5

Fighting Back: The Michael Watson Story 1/5

Fighting Back: The Michael Watson Story 2/5

Fighting Back: The Michael Watson Story 3/5

Fighting Back: The Michael Watson Story 4/5

Fighting Back: The Michael Watson Story 5/5

Champion boxer Michael Watson remembers his London Marathon experience

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  1. The Thresher 05:35am, 10/30/2011

    Thanks good buddy.

  2. sthomas 05:26am, 10/30/2011

    Super story Kid Blast.  Good that Eubanks was there with Watson.

  3. The Thresher 07:49am, 10/29/2011

    Rax, Willie Classen vs. Wilford Sypion in the 70’s was a similar fight. Classen died. Sypion was later disabled as a result of his boxing career.

  4. The Thresher 07:42am, 10/29/2011

    Yes, Raxman. That was what happened. The lack of medical devices at ringside and the slow manner in which Michael was treated did not help. He won a massive lawsuit but it only resulted in putting the commission into bankruptcy. The Government may have given Michael something but I am far from certain about that.

  5. raxman 09:15pm, 10/28/2011

    Ted i’ve heard it said that hitting the back of his head on the ropes may have caused the worst injury. i always thought it was the criminally negligent lack of ambulance etc but here in melbourne the last few years we see in the news over and over guys dying as a result of landing on the back of their heads - but that is street fighting and mostly hitting the pavement or nightclub floors

  6. The Thresher 03:59pm, 10/27/2011

    I have always been a great fan of the British fight game.

  7. Randy Loathsome 02:50pm, 10/27/2011

    Thanks for the respect that you have for the British fight game, Ted, and particularly here for Michael Watson.

  8. The Welshman 10:31am, 10/27/2011

    Michael has the heart of a lion.

  9. TEX HASSLER 10:06am, 10/27/2011

    Any one who does not think boxing is a highly dangerous business should consider this excellent article by Ted Sares. Michael Watson was one of the very best who did not know the meaning of quit. Most boxers will do any thing but quit in a fight and that is the very thing that gets them hurt. One of the young fighters in the gym I was trained in was already having brain trouble at only 16 years of age.

  10. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:50am, 10/27/2011

    Nice read!

  11. dollar bond 06:43am, 10/27/2011

    I think the word that best describes this article is poignant.

  12. The Thresher 05:17am, 10/27/2011

    Nobility is the word. Perfect.

  13. mikecasey 02:37am, 10/27/2011

    Nicely done, Ted. There is - and always has been - a genuine nobility about Michael Watson.

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