One man who is uniquely qualified to speak on the ill-fated Nick Blackwell-Chris Eubank Junior fight – the story of Saturday’s brutal fight and it’s unfortunate aftermath the subject of all manner of articles in today’s press – is Michael Watson. Watson suffered brain injury in his 1991 fight with Chris Eubank Senior and only after six operations and some incredible determination and effort did Watson partially recover; enough to lead a life he often says he is blessed to have had.
Watson, like Blackwell, was placed in an induced coma after the bout and he remained in hospital for a long time. As is the case today in various newspapers, Watson’s case resulted in many people calling for boxing to be banned. That in itself is a whole article by itself, but Watson has spoken about the Blackwell fight and he says it was “an accident” for which no-one should be blamed.
“Young Chris need not blame himself for what has happened,” Watson said in an interview with The Telegraph. “It was not his intention to bring harm to his opponent, as strange as that sounds. It was an accident. I have been praying for Nick and his family.”
While a number of fingers have been pointed at Saturday night’s referee, Victor Loughlin, and at Blackwell’s trainer, Gary Lockett, because neither man stopped the brutal and gruelling fight sooner (it was finally stopped in the 10th-round on the advice of the ringside doctor) Watson is likely to have his sentiments echoed. Nobody can really be blamed for what happened. Blackwell is a proven warrior and if he had been pulled out at around the 7th or 8th-round stage, when he was of course still coming forward, throwing punches (as he was right to the very end of the fight) the defending British champion would have been livid; as would his army of fans.
If certain fights had been stopped at a time when the action had reached levels of brutality, there would have been no Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward or Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo – two of the most celebrated fights in recent boxing history. Of course, most people (sadly not all) would prefer to see both fighters come out of the ring safe even if it means less action, but boxing is known as a fierce sport and if fights were stopped at a time fans called too early, the sport would suffer that way.
Indeed it is a fine line – one that proves how tough a job a boxing referee has. Would you want to be in Mr. Loughlin’s shoes right now? No. Have you ever refereed a fight? Again, no. Therefore you really have no right to judge him. The same goes for trainer and corner-man Lockett.
In short, if Watson says Saturday’s tragic events were the result of an accident and nothing more, then who are we to disagree?