British boxer Nick Blackwell was placed in a medically induced coma at a London hospital after leaving the ring on a stretcher following his bout with Chris Eubank Jr. at the Wembley Arena. The bout was stopped in Round 10 on the advice of the ring physician because of severe swelling over Blackwell’s left eye. The 25-year-old Blackwell, who was making the third defense of his British middleweight title, collapsed in the ring shortly after the stoppage and was brought to the hospital where he was diagnosed with bleeding on the brain. The bout was aired on Channel 5 in the U.K., a free television channel.
Eubank Jr, who was a substantial favorite despite being the challenger, was comfortably ahead on points when the bout was stopped. As noted in our recap, Blackwell absorbed heavy punishment but never backed down. “He was too brave for his own good,” wrote Jonathan Brennan in the London Guardian.
When apprised of the dire situation, Chris Eubank Jr. tweeted: “You put up a great fight tonight. Proved yourself a true warrior, wish you a quick recovery and a speedy return 2 to the ring.” Lennox Lewis and Tyson Fury also tweeted their thoughts and prayers. On Easter Sunday morning, Blackwell was said to be resting comfortably, but the chance of him ever fighting again is nil. There is no timeline for his recovery.
Ironically, Eubanks father was involved in a similar incident. In September of 1991, in a match for the WBO world super middleweight title, Eubank Sr. defeated 26-year-old countryman Michael Watson. The bout, a savage affair, was stopped in the 12th frame with Watson, ahead on all three scorecards, protesting the stoppage.
Watson collapsed in the ring. He spent 40 days in a coma and had six operations to remove a blood clot on his brain, but he eventually recovered, a long drawn-out process. He successfully sued the British Boxing Board of Control for negligence. Among other acts of misfeasance, the promoter wasn’t required to have an ambulance at the ready. The tragedy led to the establishment of more stringent safety procedures.
There will be a lot of second guessing. Did referee Victor Loughlin err in not stopping the fight sooner? Was Blackwell’s corner at fault for not throwing in the towel when it became apparent that their man had scant chance of emerging victorious? Meanwhile, the overriding issue is whether Nick Blackwell can win the most important fight of his life.