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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Poignant end to Watson's epic journey
By Tom Fordyce

Watson was joined by Chris Eubank for the last mile
Chris Eubank joined Watson for the final mile

When Michael Watson crossed the finish line of the London Marathon on Saturday - six days and more than two hours after most of his fellow competitors - he wrote another chapter in an extraordinary life story.

Chris Eubank, at whose hands Watson took the terrible battering that almost cost him his life, was there to welcome him.

Watson and Eubank, each man's life irrevocably altered by the other, were long ago reconciled, the strength of their friendship a testament to the character of both men.

The physical damage that Watson sustained in his WBO super-middleweight title fight defeat by Eubank in September 1991 would have killed an individual who was less fit.

To see him complete the 26.2 mile course from Blackheath to Buckingham Palace was to witness a medical miracle.

Watson spent 40 days in a coma and had six brain operations after collapsing in the 12th round of that fight.

Doctors initially predicted that he would never walk again. It took months for him to regain speech and movement. Yet after six years in a wheelchair, there he was, completing a challenge that is too much for most people without any history of illness.

Each mile took him an hour to complete. He made it round by walking two miles each morning and two miles in the afternoon, resting and sleeping in the double-decker bus which accompanied him along the course.

"What I did drained me physically, but I was so electrified by this experience," says Watson.

Watson celebrates his amazing feat with his mother
Watson celebrates his amazing feat with his mother

Still partially paralysed down his left side, he bears not a drop of malice towards Eubank.

"After the fight, the only thoughts that I had were of major disappointment. I so badly wanted the world title," he says.

"I was gutted. I couldn't believe what had happened. But when I met him, I realised he was suffering too.

"He has carried a lot over the years. When I first met him I just felt that I could forgive him and all I felt was love."

To some that is an extraordinary attitude. Yet Watson was no ordinary boxer, no stereotypical street ruffian who took up the sport to keep himself out of trouble.

He was, by his own admission, a shy kid from Hackney who began boxing aged 14 after being beaten up by the local bully.

"When you get into a ring you have to be focused and have to want to win or beat your opponent, but I could never feel animosity as I am a committed Christian and always have been," he says.

"When I was younger and used to train at the gym, I used to hate marking people and drawing blood.

"After the first Eubank fight (which Watson controversially lost on points) I couldn't get Chris out of my mind because I wanted to beat him so badly. But I never hated him and I never will."

For Eubank, a far more intelligent and deep-thinking individual than the monocled clown of popular myth, the Watson fight left him questioning whether he could ever box again.

What brought him back was the realisation that he had done nothing wrong, that had he failed to climb off the canvas when Watson floored him in the 11th round he would have been cheating himself.

When Eubank talks about that fateful 12th round, he talks of being so tired he could barely stand, so battered he could barely think.

Above all he talks of integrity, of having to keep fighting and punching until there was nothing left. To lose without knowing he had given absolutely everything there was to give would have made it impossible for him to live with himself.

Twelve and a half years on, each has made their peace with each other and themselves.





Links to more London Marathon 2003 stories


 

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