Chris Eubank’s Michael Watson flashback prompted warning to son: ‘Leave the head!’

Piers Morgan's Life Stories: Chris Eubank teased in promo

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The former professional boxer will become the latest star to appear on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories tonight. A super middleweight champion in his prime, Eubank, now 54, will open up about his career and personal life to the Good Morning Britain host. Eubank’s world title contests against fellow Britons Nigel Benn and Michael Watson sparked a peak interest in the sport in the Nineties, but the rematch with Watson had devastating consequences in more than one way.

In a short clip released ahead of tonight’s show, Eubank breaks down as he recalls the bout in which his opponent received a catastrophic brain injury that left him wheelchair-bound.

Mr Morgan asks: “An incredibly difficult moment for you, for Michael, for the sport, for everyone involved.

“What are your memories of that night?”

Eubank, tearing up, looks over to Michael, who is in the audience, and responds “I can’t tell you how sorry I am”.

Watson was left with a nearly-fatal brain injury after Eubank landed an uppercut in round 11, causing him to fall back and hit the back of his head against the ropes.

It subsequently cut Watson’s career short, as he spent 40 days in a coma and had six operations to remove a blood clot.

But Eubank admitted the injuries he caused three decades ago also influenced his instructions to his son – who is also a boxer – to ease off from punching opponent Nick Blackwell on the head from the eighth round onwards during a fight.

Eubank told The Telegraph in 2016: “My objective as a mentor, as a father, as a manager and as a former participant of the great game of boxing is to protect mine, but also the opponent.

“Especially if I can see things which I have experienced before.

“Michael Watson is a part of me. It’s in my head, it’s in my grain. There are scars within me.

“Therefore, those scars are what allows me to steer and protect other fighters.”

He said he gave specific instruction to Eubank Junior when he was in his corner at Wembley Arena.

He added: “I could see he [Eubank Junior] was so far ahead, and so far better in ability, and by the end of the seventh, I said ‘now Junior, you’ve got to stop throwing head punches – there is no sense’.

“You have to be compassionate, especially when you know what can happen. Which is where it came from when I said: ‘Junior, leave his head alone’.

“It was a command to him to leave the head and go to the body. And then it’s for him to carry out, or not, and he did.

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“He stopped punching and he started to showboat, and he gave space to the referee to look at Nick Blackwell’s face and the referee then asked the doctor to look at it. And the doctor stopped the fight.”

Eubank said he had concerns over Blackwell’s wellbeing at the end of the fight, but downplayed suggestions he had saved his life.

He added that “even in sparring, I tell Junior to stay away from the head because his punching is fast, powerful and dangerous”.

Perhaps the most incredible part of Eubank’s story is Watson held no malice towards the two-time rival who had so tragically and accidentally ended his career and disabled him.

In tonight’s episode, with Eubank clearly emotional over recalling the events of that night, a voice from the crowd calls out.

Watson says: “Let’s move on Chris, it’s all right, it’s okay bruv.

“Let’s move on in life. Peace and love. I love you, Chris. It’s all in the past, let’s move on in life.

“We are born warriors, we are real. God bless you, Chris.”

The Watson fight changed the face of the boxing landscape.

On the evening of September 21, 1991, Watson was attended by a British Boxing Board of Control medic plus doctors in dinner suits, who, in the absence of rapid response medical provisions at ringside, did what they could to stabilise him.

There was no oxygen or ambulance on hand and it would take 28 minutes to transport Watson to the nearest hospital.

New measures were introduced to protect fighters from suffering serious head injuries in the ring after the Watson-Eubank bout.

An ambulance on-site plus paramedics and an anaesthetist at ringside were made mandatory and shows now have to take place no further than 10 minutes from a hospital with a neurological capacity.

Watson is no longer wheelchair-bound after years of rehabilitation but still needs medical assistance.

Tonight Eubank will also open up his teenage years as a shoplifter, divorce, bankruptcy, his legendary victory over fierce rival Benn, and the success of his son since.

Eubank has endured his fair share of difficulties and has never been far from controversial comments.

He previously even questioned whether London ”should become an independent city or state”, as he argued the capital had a better chance of going it alone than Scotland.

He demanded there be “no compromise” on “not keeping London as a vantage point and its historical right of advantage”.

He added, ahead of the Brexit referendum – which saw most capital boroughs vote Remain, that an independent London could have “a GDP at the same level as Sweden or Switzerland”.

Piers Morgan’s Life Stories airs tonight on ITV at 9pm.

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