Boxing: Reprieve for Board of Control
Wednesday 22 December 1999
The Board, formed in 1929, lost a high profile legal battle with stricken boxer Michael Watson in September and, despite winning the right to appeal in October, looked set to suffer serious financial losses if it lost their appeal. Watson was thought to be looking for pounds 1m but that figure was negotiable.
Watson suffered a blood clot on the surface of his brain after his fight with Chris Eubank for the World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title at White Hart Lane in September 1991 and claimed the Board was liable for his condition. He can walk with assistance and needs two permanent carers.
In September, after winning the case, Watson and his solicitor, Michael Toohigg, denied that their intention was to ruin the Board. Toohigg revealed that he had sought meetings in an attempt to save the Board unnecessary costs in a case that nobody thought they could win.
Watson said at the time: "I just want to see improved safety procedures so that nobody suffers like me in the future." Since Watson's victory another boxer, Chris Henry, who suffered a similar but less damaging injury has made enquires and may take action against the Board.
Barry McGuigan, the former featherweight world champion who is now the outspoken president of the Professional Boxers' Association, had little sympathy for the Board's latest predicament. McGuigan said: "The Board has itself to blame. It needs to be accountable for its actions and it is not, it has never been. What is required is a complete restructuring with the welfare of the boxers paramount." McGuigan was being touted as an outside bet to replace John Morris, the Board's general secretary, who retires next week.
However, McGuigan's opinion was not shared by the country's top promoter, who has long been a vocal supporter of the Board, Frank Warren, even during its worst days. He said: "It is a shame. Without the Board there would not be any boxing in Britain and that is serious." At present, there are nearly 700 active licensed boxers.
Yesterday's decision at the High Court means that the Board will continue to licence boxers under the supervision of the joint administrators, Andrew Andronikou and Ladislav Hornan. It also means that there is effectively a safety barrier surrounding the Board's secret finances and that until they are out of administration nobody, including Watson, will be able to get any money.
Morris has been criticised in the past for his perceived arrogance and there has been much talk since he announced his retirement in November that the new man at the helm should be independent. Morris will now take up a position as an advisor to the World Boxing Council.
The Watson case has cost the Board pounds 300,000 and an appeal could have cost them another pounds 100, 000. So yesterday's announcement was not a great shock. Now the Board, and whoever takes over, has some time to find a way out of the mess.
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