The Force still strong

My sacrifice was worth it if other boxers benefitted, says Watson

Last Updated: 11/02/11 4:17pm

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From middleweight talent to the man that took on the Boxing Board of Control, Michael Watson's name will be forever embedded in the history of British boxing.

"What's happened to me is well worth the sacrifice. It's been well worth my pain and heartache and what I've been through."
Michael Watson Quotes of the week

The Islington man was left clinging on to life back in 1991 after his third bid to become world champion ended in chaotic and catastrophic scenes.

Floored by old foe Chris Eubank in the final round at White Hart Lane, Watson hit his head on the canvas but got up to see the bell. It was then that he collapsed.

Confusion reigned in the ring as crucially - and in keeping with regulations at the time - there were no paramedics on hand.

Watson was finally attended to by doctors in their dinner jackets and an ambulance had to be called to take him to hospital. But by then he had spent a total of 28 vital minutes unconscious and without oxygen - something else that was not available instantly.

The Force, as he was known, spent 40 days in a coma. He needed six operations to remove a blood clot, spent another year in intensive care and another six in a wheelchair, battling to regain the ability to walk and talk.

It was, as he admitted in a special edition of Ringside, the biggest fight of his life. But Watson came through and in 2003 completed the London Marathon, taking six days to complete the 26 miles and crossing the line with Eubank and his neurosurgeon Peter Hamlyn, by his side.

But it was Watson's bold decision to sue the BBBofC that changed the face of British boxing forever. The Board was found guilty of failing to provide sufficient medical provision at a fight and told to pay out £400,000 in damages, which meant selling their London headquarters off.

Stirring

The lesson though, had already been learned. From then on, paramedics were - and still are - at every British bill, oxygen is on hand and used regularly as a precaution if there is any concern about a fighter's safety.

It is something that saved the lives of Spencer Oliver and Paul Ingle, both who suffered blood clots years later, but have come through, their own rehabilitation's shorter than the years it took Watson to get back to something approaching a normal life.

Ingle and Oliver joined The Force to take us through their stirring stories and both had no hesitation in insisting that while immediate medical attention prevented them dying in the ring, it was Michael Watson that saved their lives.

And that in itself is something that today, still fills him with immense satisfaction. For him the last 19 years, the months in intensive care and every dark day along the way, were all the more worth it. There was not an ounce of bitterness in the 45-year-old as he told his inspirational story in a north London gym.

"Through fate, everything in my life happens for a reason," he said. "That same reason was to help Spencer Oliver to come through the same ordeal, and Paul Ingle through the same thing.

"What's happened to me is well worth the sacrifice. It's been well worth my pain and heartache and what I've been through."

To watch Watson's moving and inspiring interview with Ringside, click on the link above.

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