Friday, 30 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: Stadium night fights: Eubank v Watson 2

With Saturday's huge stadium fight between Carl Froch and George Groves fast approaching, I've been nostalgically re-watching some of my favourite 'stadium fights' and sharing my memories of the nights and fights in question.

Click here for the previous entry in this series, which looked at Bruno v Witherspoon

Eubank v Watson 2: White Hart Lane, 21 September 1991:
This is a hard fight to talk about in a nostalgic light. One of the fiercest and most sensational fights ever seen in a British ring, it was also a contest that left one man fighting for his life and permanently disabled. The experience of watching the conclusion to this fight on live TV, and the saturated media coverage of the tragic aftermath, forced me to confront my love of boxing in the harshest possible way.

So when I think back to the night of 21 September 1991, as I often do, it is always with a mixture of awe and excitement, mediated by feelings of disgust and self-loathing.

When Eubank-Watson 2 took place back in 1991 I was just a month away from my 15th birthday and a fanatical Chris Eubank and boxing fan. The outcome of the first fight, which Eubank had 'won' on a contentious points decision, had seen him elevated in the public's mind to hate figure status. I was desperate for him to win the rematch and reassert the respect and praise he had gained in the wake of his upset victory of Nigel Benn the previous year.

I had spent the day of 21 September at a friend's house in Greenwich and we began to watch the fight together. After about three rounds my mum, with consummately poor timing, arrived to take me home. I therefore had to listen to the middle rounds on our crackly car radio, and I did so with a deepening sense of gloom and depression, as Watson knocked Eubank from pillar to post with a masterclass of aggressively paced boxing and punching.

By the time I got home just three rounds of the fight were left; Eubank had been totally out-fought and appeared on his way to a heavy and humiliating points defeat. When Watson knocked him down in the 11th, I fell to the floor in despair, howled with frustration and crumpled myself into a foetal position.

It was now a certainty in my mind that my hero Eubank had been vanquished.

The only hope I still harboured was that Chris would somehow regain his footing and not be knocked out. At least then he would have something to cling to, some sense of pride in the fact that he had been defeated but not destroyed. Beaten up but not knocked cold...

The next few seconds appeared to happen in slow motion ... Eubank arose, cocked his right hand and somehow knocked Watson down with a staggering uppercut.

Suddenly, I was hysterical with excitement.

I leapt from my previously prone position ...

I swung punches at the imaginary Watson in my living room ...

I screamed for Chris to finish him. Destroy him. Kill him. A figure of speech perhaps, but one that still makes me retch.

Watson never recovered from the effects of that uppercut and my desire for a Eubank victory was soon sated.

The ultimate fantasy of most boxing fans to witness a sensational 'come from behind' triumph had also been satisfied, but the human cost, as we all now know, was immense and incalculable.

It wasn't the first time or last time in boxing that there would be fatality or near fatality, but for my 14-year-old self this was the fight that really awoke my conscience to the true nature and possibly terminal consequences of any boxing match.

I've never watched a boxing match since without thinking of Eubank-Watson 2.

And I still don't know whether that's a good thing or not.

Luke G. Williams

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