BOXING : Watson's example can encourage American
Nick Halling sees hope for McClellan in a fellow champion's brave fight
Monday 27 February 1995
After a similarly absorbing televised world super-middleweight title fight in September 1991, the Londoner Michael Watson lost consciousness after being stopped in the 12th round of his contest against Chris Eubank. Like McClellan, Watson required immediate surgery to remove a blood clot from the brain. The immediate signs were not encouraging.
He lay in a coma on a life-support machine for 38 days after two emergency operations, breathing only with the aid of a ventilator. It took until January for the former Commonwealth champion to move his right hand and leg. As 1992 progressed he began to show an interest in the world around him, recognising family and close friends and communicating in single words.
Watson had four brain operations in total, the last coming in June 1992, when drainage tubes were removed and a section of his skull replaced with a metal-alloy plate. After the fourth operation, Peter Hamlet, the St Bartholomew's neurosurgeon who had cautioned against expectations of a full recovery, expressed surprise at the progress being made by his patient.
"His speech has improved from single words to well-formed sentences, and power in his limbs has also increased," he said. "He has made great progress in recent months, and there is every prospect that this will continue."
Watson remains in a wheelchair, and although the right side of his body has responded well to treatment, the left remains virtually useless. He retains a keen interest in the sport and is a regular visitor at many London promotions. His enthusiasm for Arsenal Football Club remains singularly undiminished. While hopes of a complete recovery may remain unfulfilled, the Islington man, who turns 30 next month, enjoys a better quality of life than seemed possible when he lay, unresponsive, in a deep coma.
The injuries to Watson and McClellan have led some observers to question whether the middleweight divisions in boxing are the most fraught with danger. While smaller men tend to wear each other down and heavyweights simply flatten each other through sheer power, the middleweights seem caught between the two, seemingly motivated beyond the limits of their physical endurance.
The examples of Watson, McClellan and another London middleweight, Rod Douglas, who underwent brain surgery after a contest in 1989, add weight to the theory. However Bradley Stone, the boxer who died after a British title fight last year, fought at bantamweight.
Other recent British deaths include the Scottish welterweight Steve Watt in 1986, and the Welsh bantamweight Johnny Owen in 1980. Another bantamweight, Mark Goult, underwent brain surgery in 1990, while the former World Boxing Organisation heavyweight champion, Michael Bentt, collapsed with a concussive brain injury after losing his title to Herbie Hide last March.
The Watson affair led to the British Boxing Board of Control instigating an eight-point plan aimed at improving boxers' safety. As the events of Saturday night have confirmed, it is impossible to eliminate the risk factor from boxing.
While Watson lay in his hospital bed, one of his regular visitors was Nigel Benn, the two having become friends after their Commonwealth title fight in 1989. Such is the camaraderie that binds fighters together it will be no surprise to find Watson offering McClellan both support and an example of hope as the American embarks on an uncertain convalescence.
Latest in Sport
Brendan Rodgers future: Odds shorten on sack as Liverpool manager prepares to meet bosses in next 36 hours
Fifa corruption: Sepp Blatter's right-hand man Jerome Valcke 'sent' $10m payment to Jack Warner in letter from the South African FA
Sepp Blatter resigns: Under-pressure Fifa president quits amid corruption scandal
Next Liverpool manager: Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp among favourites to succeed Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool transfer news: James Milner nearing Anfield switch, but club baulk at £32.5m Christian Benteke release clause
- 3 Alton Towers crash: Four seriously injured and 16 guests trapped as Smiler ride carriages collide
- 4 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...
£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...
£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...