A look at the courageous story of Michael Watson, a fighter whose career ended prematurely after he suffered a near-fatal injury in a bout with Chris Eubank in 1991.
Michael Watson, MBE (born 15 March 1965 in Hackney, London) is a retired British boxer whose career ended prematurely as a result of near-fatal injury sustained in a WBO super-middleweight title fight defeat by Chris Eubank in September 1991.
Watson took up boxing at the age of fourteen at the Crown and Manor boxing club, where he proved to be a quick learner, winning an under-71 kg London Schools title in 1980.
Though losing amateur contests in 1981 against Garry Sanderson and southpaw Roy Carroll, he had an impressive 20-2 record at the Crown and Manor Club. He transferred to the Colvestone Boxing Club where he trained and sparred for over a year with Kirkland Laing,Dennis Andries, and Darren Dyer. He entered the 1983/84 Nationals at under 75 kg and won the title. On his 19th birthday, he foughtJohn Beckles during the 1984 London ABAs, both being national champions. Watson, initially seen as the underdog, ended the fight in just over 30 seconds. As a result, Watson was seen as Great Britain's best hope for a medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. However, his place on the Olympic team was taken by Liverpool's Brian Schumacher.
Watson's professional career lasted from 1984 to 1991. The highlight was his May 1989 victory over Nigel Benn to secure the British Commonwealth middleweight title. This led to a world title clash with Jamaican Mike McCallum, who defeated Watson by a knockout in the eleventh round.
On 22 June 1991 at Earl's Court, he met Chris Eubank in another opportunity for the world middleweight title. Eubank won by a majority decision of 116–113, 115–113 and 114–114, close enough to support dissension by some commentators and supporters.
A rematch was arranged on 21 September 1991 at White Hart Lane, this time for the vacant WBO world super-middleweight title. In round 11, with Watson ahead on points and seemingly on the verge of a stoppage victory, he knocked Eubank down with a right hook. Moments later, Eubank was back on his feet and connected with a devastating uppercut, which caused Watson to fall back and hit the back of his head against the ropes. Referee Roy Francis stopped the fight in round 12, after which Watson collapsed in the ring. There was no ambulance or paramedic at the event.After some eight minutes, doctors wearing dinner jackets arrived, during which time the fallen fighter received no oxygen. A total of 28 minutes elapsed before Watson received treatment in a hospital neurosurgical unit. He spent 40 days in a coma and had six brain operations to remove a blood clot.
After regaining consciousness, he spent over a year in intensive care and rehabilitation and six more years in a wheelchair while he slowly recovered some movement and regained the ability to speak and write. Peter Hamlyn, the consultant neurosurgeon who operated on Watson, said in 2010 "I think back to those first days, and the milestone moments. The first eight months were so depressing. He couldn't hear, couldn't speak, couldn't walk. Slowly, he clawed it all back. So extraordinary".