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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK


Watson wins damages

The second Eubank-Watson fight was a brutal affair

British boxer Michael Watson has won his case for compensation against the sport's governing body after he suffered brain damage in a world title fight against Chris Eubank.

Sports Correspondent Kevin Gearey: "Watson's home is a shrine to his achievements in the ring"
Watson, 34, was believed to be seeking about £1m, but a decision on the size of the award against the British Boxing Board of Control will be made at a later date.

The High Court said that Watson could have recovered to lead "effectively a normal life" if the necessary medical procedures had been in place.

Lawyers for the Board were refused leave to appeal. BBBC general secretary John Morris confirmed the board was uninsured and it was a "very serious matter".

[ image: Watson had emergency surgery to remove blood clot from his brain]
Watson had emergency surgery to remove blood clot from his brain
Watson expressed delight at the result and added: "I am pleased that as a result of what has happened to me, new rules have been introduced which have made boxing, the sport I love, safer.

"I take comfort from the fact that those changes may have already saved others from a similar fate."

Chris Eubank said he was pleased for Watson.

"I'm very happy for Michael, he deserves it, and when you take into consideration that he was one of the big three, Nigel (Benn), myself and Michael, he definitely deserves it, because we went on to make a lot of money," he said.

"I've kept quiet until now, but in a way I've been vindicated. It's always been thought that because I threw the blow I was to blame."

Speaking of his concern for the future of the Board, he said: "They are a very considerate and understanding body...we will make sure the board of control survives."

Emergency surgery

Watson suffered the irreparable damage after a punishing super-middleweight contest against world champion and fellow Briton Eubank at White Hart Lane in north London in 1991.

He collapsed in the ring at the end of the fight and later underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.

Watson's doctor Peter Hamlyn: "It's not as big a day for me as the day he first walked"
But he remains paralysed down his left side and will never work again after losing half his brain function.

Mr Justice Kennedy, who was dealing only with the issue of liability, said Watson was entitled to damages on the basis he would have made a good recovery if the proper protocol had been in place.

That meant, he added, that Watson would have been able to lead "effectively a normal life" although his boxing career would have been over.

Duty of care

Lawyers for Watson, of Chingford, east London, had claimed the board owed him a duty of care to provide medical staff in attendance on the night with the "training and equipment to resuscitate a fighter in his condition".

Watson's solicitor Michael Toohig: "Michael was badly let down"
The board's case was that it owed Watson no legal duty of that kind, and even with that treatment he would still have suffered the same level of brain damage and disablement from the fight.

Watson, who attended the High Court in a wheelchair, had told the court during the hearing: "I am still a fighter and I have fought hard, with God's help, to get back some health.

"Words cannot describe how hard it has been."

Landmark decision

Watson had added: "I do not want anyone to ever have to go through what I have been through....I get depressed and just wish I could take a break from it all.

"I know that wish will not come true."

After the judgment, the board's counsel, Ronald Walker QC, told the judge it was a "landmark decision".

"It is the first case in which a regulatory body authority has been held liable for the negligent failure to regulate, resulting in damages."

Outside court, Mr Morris said: "This is a very serious matter for the future of professional boxing and we must discuss the whole position, not only with our legal advisers, but with our members."

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