Michael Watson (born March 15, 1965) is a former boxer from England. Born in London, he is a resident of Islington. Although he did not become a world champion, many in England see him as a hero.
Watson debuted professionally as a boxer on October 16, 1984, beating Winston Wray by a knockout in round four in London. The great majority of his fights were fought in London, and only one of his fights was outside England.
Watson rose quickly though the WBO Middleweight ranks, building a record of 18 wins, 1 loss and one draw before venturing for the first and only time outside his native soil. During that 20 fight span, he beat such notables as Don Lee and Ricky Stackhouse. Then, he went to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, where he would fight to a two round technical draw (tie) with Israel Cole. Three wins followed, and then, Watson faced future world champion Nigel Benn for the British Commonwealth Middleweight title. In what would turn out to be his biggest career win, he defeated Benn by knockout in round six, on May 21, 1989.
On April 14, 1990, he received his first world title try, when he challenged WBA world champion Mike McCallum, losing by a twelve round decision.
After three more wins, he was given a second world title try, on June 22, 1991, against WBO world champion Chris Eubank. Watson lost a close bout by twelve round decision, and many fans and critics thought that he should have been crowned world champion that night, so the WBO ordered an immediate rematch.
His rematch with Eubank, held on September 21, 1991, would turn out to be a turning point for Watson's life. It has been called one of the most brutal fights in British boxing history. After dropping Eubank in round eleven, Watson seemed confident that victory was his. However, Eubank, probably feeling desperate to retain his title, landed a punch to Watson's chin just as that same round ended and Watson fell. Watson did not recuperate completely from this punch before the next round began. Eubank felt he was behind on points and needed a knockout, so he proceeded to punish Watson along the ropes. After the fight was stopped by the referee, chaos ensued because Watson suddenly collapsed inside the ring.
In need of quick medical help, he faced some dire moments: there was no ambulance or paramedics at the event's site, and Watson went 30 minutes without oxygen, finally being put on an oxygen mask after an ambulance had been rushed from a nearby hospital. These 30 minutes without oxygen proved vital in the outcome of Watson's future, and he spent 40 days in a coma. It is believed that the 30 minutes Watson spent without oxygen are among the largest amount of time that a person has gone without oxygen and survived in history.
Chris Eubank himself was affected after this: he went on to be defeated by Steve Collins a couple of years later, and he went through hard emotional times, as many boxers do after these types of boxing accidents, as reflected by his win-loss record after the second fight with Watson.
Watson woke up from his coma, but even then, his prognosis was not good. His neurosurgeon was afraid Watson would never speak or walk again. He spent many years at the hospital, slowly recovering some of his movements, and regaining the ability to eat regular food, read, and write simple notes. Still, in 1999, his neurosurgeon wrote that Watson would never be able to walk again.
Soon after, the doctor's prognosis began to change, as Watson started getting off bed and was able to begin walking theraphy. But his doctor was still a little negative: He said that Watson would have a hard time walking half the distance of a room.
On April 19, 2003, Michael Watson made headlines and became an instant national hero in England, when he was able to complete, after 6 days, the London Marathon. Finishing the race by his side were Chris Eubank and his neurosurgeon, who has become a personal friend of his.
Watson received, on February 4 of 2004, an MBE by HRH the Queen Elizabeth the II. She told him that she had heard of his achievements. Watson himself felt overjoyed and noted that this was the first visit to Buckingham Palace by him, his brother and his mother, although they had passed in front of the Palace many times before.
In what can be considered an ironic coincidence, another of Nigel Benn's rivals, Gerald McClellan, went through a similar, life threatening situation, but McClellan's emergency, unlike Watson's, occurred after a fight with Benn himself. McClellan was also told he'd never be able to talk or walk again, but he has slowly been recuperating both abilities too.
The BBBC, Great Britain's governing boxing commission, was enraged that there were no paramedics at the site, citing that not only the boxers themselves, but also the large public could be in danger if another emergency occurred to anyone during a boxing event in Great Britain. As a consequence of this, the regulatory body made it a requirement for boxing promoters to have ambulances, medical doctors and paramedics on the site of the boxing event. Watson was awarded $1 million dollars, most of it to cover for his medical expenses.
Watson had 26 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws as a boxer, with 21 wins by knockout.