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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing