Hall’s world title provides an uplifting end to a tough year for British boxers

Stuart Hall fought on without any sight in his left eye to claim the bantamweight title on Saturday

Ten years ago on Christmas Day Stuart Hall was living a nomad’s life as another exile desperate for a few quick quid in Ibiza’s twilight zone.

He arrived on the Balearic island for a two-week holiday and stayed for just over five years, boozing, fighting and wiping his memory clean most nights. “I knew from the first day that I was not going back,” claims Hall, who embraced the island’s seedy side with ease.

“A lot of what happened is a blur, to be honest,” admits Hall. “I took the break from boxing but I never took a break from fighting – when it was all over I had to turn pro back home. What else could I do?” Hall lost three stone and had his first professional fight when he was 28.

On Saturday in Leeds he won a version of the world bantamweight title in the best fight to take place in a British ring this year. It was not easy viewing – he was marched through boxing’s severest depths by South African Vusi Malinga – but nobody in the crowd of nearly 5,000 will ever forget what the pair did.

In an age when too many fighters make outrageous comments and insult each other to the point of comic ridicule, it was an honour to watch Malinga and Hall avoid all the tawdry theatrics until the first bell sounded; a bell that was the beginning of the end of a tough year for British boxers in world-title fights.

Darren Barker, Lee Purdy, Tony Bellew, Matt Macklin, Nathan Cleverly, George Groves and Gavin Rees were all stopped or knocked out in world-title contests. It was unpleasant being a witness to the beatings as each man suffered and placed their failure on a showreel of some of Britain’s best squirming in pain, dumped over the ropes defenceless and hollowed-eyed in despair at the end of gruesome fights.

Hall, now 33, had to find something special against Malinga to avoid adding his name to the list. He located it somewhere to defy expectations and finished the last four rounds without any sight in his left eye, which meant that the blood from the cut above the eye could not further hinder his vision. “I guess it was instinct once the eye closed and I could tell that he was targeting the eye – it hurt every time he hit me there,” said Hall.

Malinga threatened to take control of the fight in the middle rounds as Hall’s fading vision started to make him an easy target for the South African’s desperate punches. There was real drama as it looked like the sweetest of victories would be ruined by the cruellest of defeats at the death. However, in rounds 11 and 12 Hall moved, picked his punches and pulled clear as Malinga, the favourite, was left slicing at air in a ring that was splattered with Hall’s blood.

There was the same collective desire for Hall to win, stay upright and pull off a shock in Leeds on Saturday night that I experienced when Frank Bruno finally won a world title in 1995 at Wembley Stadium. On that night Bruno could barely walk during the last three minutes and Oliver McCall was just one half-decent punch away from breaking Bruno’s heart yet again.

It has been a sudden transition for Hall, moving from full-time roofer and solid professional boxer to world champion. His chance at the vacant IBF title was fortuitous but in boxing negotiations are everything; Hall was ranked, the title was vacant and his promoter, Dennis Hobson, is an expert at lobbying.

“Just a few weeks ago I was back on the tools [roofing], knocked it off in a week and I made a few quid,” added Hall. “It all helps and there have been weeks when I’ve had just £100 in the bank and I need 25 quid each day to get to the gym in Leeds and back. There have been a lot of weeks like that this year, don’t worry. Weeks when we have had to survive on 25 quid. It’s Christmas now in every single way.”

The belt will change his life but Hall knows that it will bring a few extra problems, tiny jealousies will increase as more people will view his passage from Darlington council estate, through the drug mayhem of Ibiza, to a bright future. “There were haters before I won the title, people claiming: ‘Look at him, he thinks he is better than us.’ I live with it now; all I want to do is give my wife and kids a better life. They deserve better than I had,” added Hall, who is just hopeful his left eye will be open on Christmas morning. It’s not much to ask.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
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