IT is the hottest day of the year and clearly too much for Michael Watson. The former boxer sinks into his chair and shakes his head wearily. “I’m tired…” he murmurs, more to himself than anybody else. There is a far away look in his eyes and an unspoken agreement that we’ll give it another try tomorrow. This is not the first time that Michael has cancelled but it’s easy to forgive him. When it comes to excuses he does, after all, come better equipped than most of us. “We’ll do it in the morning,” he promises. “I’m going to psyche myself up…”
More 25 years ago Michael was the recipient of an uppercut that almost ended his life. The facts are no secret: the blow in question was thrown in desperation by rival Chris Eubank shortly after the eccentric Brighton boxer had been bludgeoned to the canvas with only 14 seconds left in a barnstorming 11th round of their rematch. Fourteen seconds that would change Michael’s life forevermore; instantly ending his boxing career and beginning a lingering rehabilitation that may never really be over.
Twenty-four hours later I’m back in Michael’s favourite restaurant in London and sitting beside him, ready to do what we have to do. He looks fresh-faced and healthy: heavier than in his fighting days but the years appear to have been good to him. It is only when he speaks that you are aware that something is amiss. It took the ex-boxer many difficult years to learn how to speak again and his words are blurred. When you watch him painstakingly climb to his feet you have an even greater insight into the difficulties that he faces on a daily basis.