It is nearly 25 years since boxer Chris Eubank left a fellow fighter desperately ill after a bout that led to calls for a ban on the sport.
Yesterday he was hailed a hero for his intervention in a similarly brutal battle in which his son Chris Eubank Jr injured an opponent so badly he had to be put in an induced coma.
Nick Blackwell, 25, who suffered bleeding to the brain, was carried out of Wembley Arena on a stretcher and taken to hospital, where he remained under observation yesterday.
Eubank Sr had been at the ringside on Saturday and may have saved Blackwell’s life by urging his son to punch his opponent’s body, rather than his face, over the last two rounds after telling him the referee should have ended the contest.
He also banged on the canvas floor of the ring in an attempt to get referee Victor Loughlin to call off the fight.
Chris Eubank Snr instructed his son not to target Nick Blackwell’s head after the eighth round of the fight, and aim for his body instead
The contest was finally stopped in the tenth round after the ringside doctor advised the referee that defending champion Blackwell was unable to see through his left eye, and Eubank Jr, 26, took the British middleweight title.
Amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of boxing, there was also praise for Eubank Sr, 49. One Twitter user said: ‘Chris Eubank Sr may well have saved Nick Blackwell’s life last night. Class act.’
The retired boxer’s later career was blighted by the memory of the night in Tottenham, North London, in 1991 when he left Michael Watson in a 40-day coma. Brain-damaged Watson survived but has been severely disabled ever since.
On Saturday night Eubank Jr was well ahead at the end of the eighth round when his father climbed into the ring to offer advice.
TV cameras caught him telling his son: ‘If the referee doesn’t stop it, then I don’t know what to tell you, but I will tell you this: one, if he doesn’t stop it and we keep on beating him like this, he is getting hurt; two, if it goes to a decision, why didn’t the referee stop the fight? I don’t get why.
‘So maybe you shouldn’t leave it to the referee. So you’re not going to take him out to the face – you’re going to take him out to the body.’
Eubank’s punches became less frequent in the last two rounds, and many boxing fans on Twitter suggested Eubank Sr’s advice to his son saved Blackwell’s life.
Soon after the fight was stopped, Blackwell, from Wiltshire, who had a nose bleed, suddenly fell to the ring floor. He received medical attention immediately.
Fans on Twitter said the referee or Blackwell’s coaches should have stopped the fight earlier.
Sports pundit Pilib de Brún tweeted: ‘Unbelievable how that fight wasn’t stopped earlier! Blackwell is one tough lad.’
Fans’ site Best of Boxing added: ‘We all know the risk involved in boxing however the referee or the corner of Blackwell should have stopped the fight it went on 2rds to many.’
Brain injury charity Headsmatter wrote: ‘Nick Blackwell’s plight again underlines the risks boxers take- lump shows someone should have stopped it sooner’
Eubank Snr (left) had warned Chris Eubank Jnr that Blackwell would continue getting hurt if the referee did not call an end to the fight
Eubank Snr implored his son not to target Nick Blackwell’s head during their fight on Saturday, haunted by his own experiences after he left Michael Watson in a coma 25 years ago
Blackwell was taken to hospital following his defeat to Eubank in the 10th round of the British title fight
Blackwell was taken to hospital after collapsing following his defeat by Chris Eubank Jnr
British Boxing Board of Control general secretary Robert Smith said of Blackwell yesterday: ‘He’s in intensive care, he’s in an induced coma and he is resting and being looked after.
‘It’s a very normal procedure. They put you in a coma to get the swelling to go down. There’s no time scale. Now it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing.’
Smith later backed referee Victor Loughlin, who he said had done a ‘good job’.
Smith told BBC Radio Five Live: ‘I’ve spoken to the referee, Victor Loughlin, I’ve spoken to Gary Lockett (Blackwell’s coach). We had discussions with regard to how the fight went and I’m satisfied with their decisions on the evening.
He added: ‘Every boxer who gets into a boxing ring knows the risks. We have everything in place as best we can, but we’re never going to take away [all the risk]… we’re never going to make it 100 per cent safe.
‘We have anaesthetists there, we have paramedics, we have doctors. We notify the nearest neurosurgical units. We do everything we possibly can. We’re very strict in this country.
‘It’s the nature of the sport. We all live with that and we all understand it. Nick Blackwell wanted to be a boxer, like everybody else who wants to take part in boxing. We all know the risks.’
He said Eubank Snr was ‘entitled to his opinions’ but said there were a lot of experienced people at the fight who felt the referee made the right decisions.
Michael Watson needed emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain after his fight with Eubank Snr in 1991
The fight was life-changing for Watson who spent 40 days in an induced coma after the fight 25 years ago
A doctor attends to Watson as he lies unconscious in the ring, having collapsed shortly after the end of the fight
Blackwell spoke to Chris Eubank Snr after the fight with the damage to his left eye clearly visible
Eubank Jr, from Brighton, said after the fight: ‘I hit him with some big shots – maybe the referee should have stopped the fight earlier.
‘I have respect for anyone who steps in the ring. It’s sad that he had to leave on a stretcher.’
Michael Watson, who collapsed after a 1991 fight with Eubank Snr and spent 40 days in an induced coma and had six operations to remove a blood clot from his brain, said the fight left him with a feeling of ‘deja vu’.
He wrote in the Telegraph: ‘I went down memory lane in many senses. It was strange watching Chris in the corner with his son, and I have seen most of young Chris’ fights.
‘Chris and Nick were involved in a very tough fight, and it was a very sad thing to see Nick hurt at the end and then to hear what has happened to him after the fight. It was a real sense of deja vu as the story unfolded.
‘I obviously wish Nick and his family love and prayers as he is cared for in hospital.’
Blackwell battled bravely but could not cope with Eubank’s power and variety of punishment
Eubank Jnr could not miss with the uppercut as Blackwell suffered repeated punishment
Eubank did appear to be tiring in the latter stages but by that point had done enough to secure victory