Boxing: 'It was my greatest fight,' the controversial aftermath to chilling night

Michael Watson has never fully recovered from his world title bout with Chris Eubank in 1991. The fight has not been screened since, but Eubank owns the rights and is making it available on the internet - for a fee. Sickening exploitation? Amazingly, Watson wants you to watch the brutal contest that scarred his life. In an extraordinary interview he explains why

Michael Watson first watched a tape of his last fight as a boxer from the recovery ward at St Bartholomew's Hospital. It was some time in November 1991, less than eight weeks after his second and final fight with Chris Eubank.

He had to turn the sound down because it was disturbing other patients but he never took his eyes off the screen. At the time he could not talk because of a tracheotomy tube in his throat and he had a baseball cap permanently perched on his head, covering the dent left after the brain operations that saved his life.

"I obviously can't remember the first time I watched but I can remember watching it later on from different hospital rooms. I know that I have worn out a lot of tapes. I like watching it. It was a great fight," Watson said a few days ago, speaking from his mother's flat in Islington, north London.

On that Saturday night in 1991 ITV went off air at 11pm not knowing how seriously damaged Watson was. The final punches from Eubank connected with Watson's high guard shortly before 10.54 and within a minute Watson was on the bloody canvas, his head resting on a doctor's case, his eyes, with their long lashes, peacefully closed and his life slowly slipping away. The cameras were switched off, the transmission ended and the fight has not been seen since. Darkness for the fighter and the fight.

Watson emerged from the coma and the operations and the hardship of disability to become a role model for all victims of sudden head trauma. He walked from the darkness of surgery and uncertainty and three years ago took seven days to complete the London Marathon. Just less than four million people watched the finish live on BBC TV. But it was his last fight that he has always wanted people to see. "It was my greatest fight. I know some people might find that hard to understand. But, that is how I feel. I know it could have been Chris at the end on the floor, but it was me and that is something that I can't hide from and don't want to hide from," Watson continued.

A few weeks ago Eubank approached Watson to talk about putting an end to the embargo on the fight - something the former head of sport at ITV, Brian Barwick, had aggressively enforced - and somehow getting the fight shown in some shape or form. Watson agreed to the idea in principle and Eubank is now planning to make the fight available on his own website, There will be a small fee and Watson will receive an equal share of profits, which is a much better option than people buying illegal copies from unlicensed DVD dealers. But it is not as simple as that and Eubank has been harshly criticised by some for his role in the fight's planned exposure.

Also, it has emerged that the necessary exchange of legal documents between lawyers acting for both boxers, who have remained friends since that night has not quite been completed. As one lawyer explained to me at the Malmaison Hotel in London yesterday, when Eubank announced the arrangement, to a small gathering of press: "The deal's not off. It's just not on yet."

However, Watson is convinced - as is Eubank - that the fight being shown will both raise his profile and show people just how good a fighter he was. Having spent a lot of time with Watson helping him write his autobiography a few years back, I was stunned by just how important his boxing career and years of ring memories were to him.

"I'm happy that my fans and boxing fans will get the chance to see the real deal and enjoy all of the fight and remember it for more than just what happened to me when it was over. The fight was more than just the ending. It was a great fight," Watson added. "I know that people forget about my career before the second fight with Eubank. They know me as the boxer who suffered the injury in the Eubank fight, but there is a lot more than that. Just watching the whole of the rematch will show people that I was a quality fighter.

"When I sit down and watch the tape of the fight now there are parts I can remember. They are like quick flashes of recognition and I will tell you something strange: after every time that I watch it my mind is sharper," Watson continued.

The loss to Eubank was Watson's 29th fight and he is right - people know very little about his earlier ring appearances and they know a lot more about his long, drawn-out recovery. A few months earlier Eubank had beaten Watson on a close and controversial split decision which made both the front and the back pages of most national newspapers. In the weeks before the rematch Watson had repeatedly told me that he knew a big win was needed and in many ways he knew this was his last chance at respect and recognition.

"I have to get Eubank out of my hair," he said at the weigh-in for the fight, just 12 hours before the first bell set in motion the unforgettable encounter.

Watson had turned professional after losing a debatable decision in the British Amateur Boxing Association semi-finals in the Olympic year of 1984. At first, he was a steady pro, a fine operator and in 1989 he beat Nigel Benn in front an audience of over 10 million on ITV.

Watson was the nice guy and was given the nickname "Mover With the Hoover" by his local paper when it was revealed that he helped his mother clean the house. Benn was known as the "Dark Destroyer" and was unbeaten in 22 fights at the time and 19 of his victims lost in the first or second round. Watson boxed brilliantly and knocked out Benn in round six, but, bizarrely, it was Benn who remained the attraction. Watson was deeply upset at what had happened, but it was to get worse and in 18 months he was the chief support for the epic encounter between Eubank and Benn in Birmingham.

"In the Benn fight I showed everybody just how good I was. It was a super fight for me, but when it was over I had to watch Nigel grabbing the headlines again. It was frustrating," Watson said.

"In the first fight with Eubank the same thing happened. I knew I had won the fight, but he got the decision. He never stopped trying, but I deserved the title that night. It hurt.

"I was wrecked emotionally after the first fight with Eubank, but once the rematch was made I put every ounce of my body and soul into it. It was to be my finest hour and it was: I still think that because I know that I was put on earth to be an inspiration to others - there was a reason for the ending. I know that now," Watson continued.

Yesterday, Watson missed Eubank's press call. "It's not really my thing," he told me. "I leave that sort of thing to Chris because he likes the cameras."

Watson was also resting because today he plans to walk a stretch of the London Marathon with the former footballer Danny Wallace. In 1996 Wallace, who scored for England in his one and only appearance, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Eubank was in fine form and as usual made far more sense than he is ever given credit for. He said: "I believe it's an inspiring fight to watch. It's Michael Watson's forgotten legacy. He is right in many ways."

I was there yesterday and I was greeted by Eubank in the hotel's lobby. "Steve, go downstairs. I'm showing the last four rounds of the fight." I sat in an alcove near the bar, listening to the fight being shown down a step or two in the restaurant. I have watched it with Watson in the past and dozens of times on my own when I was working on the boxer's book. It gets harder each time and yesterday it was impossible. As the commentators' voices run wild in round 11 I stood to leave. I was halfway up the stairs when Eubank went down with about 10 seconds left at the end of round 11. I paused for a second to hear the amazement in the commentator's voice when Watson is knocked down. People watching in the bar had their mouths open and there was genuine shock in their eyes. Eubank and Watson are right: people have forgotten just how incredible the fight was.

I heard the bell sound to start round 11 and I knew what was happening on the screen. That was enough for me. I went out of the door for some air. I know exactly what happens: I don't need ever to see it again. I see it on too many nights when I close my eyes.

Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam