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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 10:50 GMT
The fight that changed boxing
Michael Watson
Watson can walk and talk but needs constant help
After his latest court victory, BBC Sport Online remembers the night in 1991 when boxer Michael Watson suffered serious injuries in the ring.

Boxer Michael Watson was among the top three British fighters when Chris Eubank threw the final uppercut in their 1991 title fight.

It ended his career and left him permanently brain-damaged.

Watson underwent surgery to remove two blood clots from his brain before he lapsed into a 30-day coma

His plight forced the sport to introduce a number of safety measures which have since saved other fighters.

But some believe the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) has still not done enough.

The safety measures include a requirement to have an anaesthetist and two teams of paramedics at the ringside.

But critics say these do nothing to prevent injuries, they only make it easier to treat them.


There were no specialists on standby for Watson

Even so, had those basic measures been introduced before Watson's fight with Eubank, he might have returned to a normal life.

Certainly it was a night filled with mistakes at White Hart Lane, north London.

The fight was ended by referee Roy Francis less than a minute into the 12th round.

Watson, nicknamed the People's Champion, collapsed into unconsciousness seconds later.

But the damage had been done in the 11th, when with 10 seconds to go Eubank's punch caught Watson square on the chin and threw him back onto the ropes.

Hour's opportunity

It was the events that followed which condemned Watson to semi-paralysis and life in a wheelchair.

Neurosurgeons describe the 60 minutes following the sustaining of a head injury as the "golden hour".

This is when the chances of preventing permanent damage are so much higher than after a longer delay.

But Watson did not go into surgery until almost four hours after the fight ended.

The boxer was not even stretchered off until 14 minutes after the end.

When an ambulance arrived, he was taken to North Middlesex Hospital, which does not have a neurological unit.


Watson (right) takes a punch from Eubank

After a delay he was transferred to St Bartholemew's Hospital where he was operated on for several hours by top neurosurgeon Peter Hamlyn.

In 1989 Hamlyn enabled boxer Rod Douglas to make a full recovery after removing a blood clot from his brain.

Douglas was operated on almost immediately.

Hamlyn has remained critical of the BBBC, wanting more radical safety measures such as shortening rounds and improving boxing glove design.

Until the Watson injury, doctors at fights were chosen on the basis of an interest in boxing rather than any neurological expertise.

But as a result of that night in 1991 the board now has the best safety procedures in the world of professional boxing.

Since Watson suffered his injury, two boxers have died in British title fights and five others have suffered serious injuries, the latest being Paul Ingle on Saturday.

Bradley Stone
Bradley Stone: Died in 1994

Before Ingle's injury in Sheffield last weekend, four previous fighters made recoveries.

These were due in part to the safety provisions introduced after Watson's harrowing night and after the death of Jimmy Murray in 1995.

Gerald McClellan is one of those to make a partial recovery, although he has lost his most of his sight.

The American needed brain surgery after his 1995 WBC super-middleweight fight against Nigel Benn.

That fight was attended by four board doctors, a consultant anaesthetist and two teams of paramedics.

In 1994 Bradley Stone died of his head injuries sustained in a fight against Richie Wenton.

But Stone walked from the ring seemingly unharmed and only collapsed hours later at his girlfriend's house.

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19 Dec 00 |  Other Sports
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