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Watson to lend an inspirational hand

Jon Thaxton says Michael Watson is a motivation to injured boxers.

Jon Thaxton says Michael Watson is a motivation to injured boxers.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

It's approaching two decades since one of the most vivid and heart-breaking stories in British sport was played out for all to see.

The venue was White Hart Lane, the date September 21, 1991. Michael Watson and Chris Eubank were the star attractions, going head to head for a second, brutal time.

Their first meeting, three months earlier, had ended in a narrow victory for Eubank. The second produced no real winner. Watson was on the verge of victory, putting Eubank on the canvas in the 11th round. But Eubank got up and connected with an uppercut which floored Watson. The fight was over. As was Watson’s career.

Norwich boxer Jon Thaxton – who was yet to turn pro – remembers watching the fight on TV. He’s followed Watson’s life story ever since and next month will be able to hear first hand how Watson has become an inspiration to all those who have suffered.

Watson is the third in a series of high-profile boxing speakers – after Ricky Hatton and Nigel Benn – to tell their stories to a Norwich audience. But this one is different. Sitting beside Watson will be Spencer Oliver, Paul Ingle and Mark Goult. Each has suffered traumatic injuries in the boxing ring and each has recovered to varying degrees.

Oliver was a 22-year-old super-bantamweight fighting Ukrainian Sergei Devakov for the European title in 1998 when he was hurt. He came through and is now a media pundit. Ingle’s career ended in December, 2000, when he had a blood clot removed from his brain after a fight with Mbulelo Botile, while Goult, from Wisbech, has been in a wheelchair since beating Danny Porter for the Southern Area bantamweight title at Norwich Sport Village in 1990. He complained of dizziness and never recovered.

Thaxton is hoping Watson’s story can inspire Ingle in particular to motivate himself to a better life.

“They all had fantastic careers, but got injured,” he said. “Michael Watson is the inspiration to us all. People have bad days - how many bad days has he had? To listen to his story, to what motivates him, to what makes him get out of bed and say ‘I will walk again’ is fantastic. He is funny and charismatic, he was the obvious choice to come and speak.

“We want to raise awareness of the guys and raise money as well, especially for Paul and Mark. Spencer has done well, but Paul needs the motivation and the drive. We want to put him in the room and listen to what Michael says. We want to hear about fantastic success stories in the boxing ring, but we want to hear what he did after the incident.”

Michael Watson will be speaking at the Holiday Inn Airport hotel on July 15. Call 01603 868606 or 01603 410544 for details.

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