He’d been having a troubling sensation in his foot. It was hard to get to the bottom of what was causing it. “It was just a mad feeling in my foot. I thought, ‘Is it because I’m training too hard?’ And then it started going up my leg,” he told Boxing News. “I went to a physio and he said it sounded like a nerve. Then it just went mad.
“I’d been training for this McDonnell fight, I had this numb leg so it’s just normal now. I’m used to it. I get in a hot bath, I don’t even feel how hot the bath is until I put my other leg in it. That’s how mad it is, that’s how crazy it is. My foot just burns every single day, a burning sensation, like pins and needles.”
“When I went to see an osteopath, I thought it was slight bulging disc,” he continued. “It was just getting worse and worse.”
Ultimately he went to hospital for a full scan of his spine. “The week before the fight I go to the hospital to get the results, we tried to push it forward to get it a couple of weeks before. I thought it was something to do with my back and I’d get an injection to get rid of the pain and I’ll be sound for the fight. I trained really well. But for the McDonnell fight I didn’t run once,” Hall said. “I was as fit as I’ve ever been for any fight and I didn’t run once… I was on the Watt bike every session and every session after sparring I was on the bike getting my heart rate up. I was fit as a fiddle.”
But only a week before the fight, the specialist he’d seen told him, in absolutely no uncertain terms, that he could not fight. “There’s these two discs in my neck at the back. He knew I was sparring the next day. He said never mind fighting next week, you can’t be sparring anymore. You’ll get your head jarred back, it’s not going to do your neck any good,” Hall recalled. “Those two discs there are crushing your spinal cord. Your nerves are getting killed. It’s killing your nerves.
“He said, ‘This is the problem Stuart. If you get hit on the chin, you don’t even have to get knocked out. You could end up paralysed.’ This is what he’s saying to me, I’m thinking I’m fit as a fiddle, I’ve been sparring all the way through, there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m taking punches.”
He was, in other words, determined to go through with this last fight regardless of the risk. “I thought he’s going to ring the Board [the British Boxing Board of Control] and put a stop to this fight,” Hall said. “I blagged him. I said I’ll pull out of this fight… I just said that because I thought he’d wouldn’t ring anybody if he thinks I’m not going to fight. I walked out of the hospital and I burst out crying, thinking this is it, it’s over.”
But he reasoned, “Deep down, I knew McDonnell wasn’t a puncher. I’ve sparred him plenty of times and I thought I’ll be sound.”
“I knew I was going to fight,” he added. “I knew whatever happened after this fight, win, lose or draw, it would be my last fight.”
But he would not pull out of the contest. “I wouldn’t dream of it. I’ve trained too hard for it,” he told himself. “I know I’ll be alright. No disrespect to Gavin McDonnell, he isn’t one of the biggest punchers. Say for instance I was fighting someone I knew was a serious puncher, I’d probably would have pulled out.”
He didn’t tell any of his coaches and concealed his condition from the Board of Control. He got through the fight, losing on points, but it was taking an extreme risk. “The first few rounds of that fight, maybe I was a little bit dubious. I’m a slow starter anyway. I knew he couldn’t really punch that much so I should have been into him,” he said. “Nobody knew and then I told them straight after the fight.
“I knew it was going to be my last fight. I wanted to try and finish on a high. I still thought I finished on high, considering what I knew going into that fight. I thought I’d done alright.
“I think I finished on a high, I’m not making excuses, I was fit. I maybe started slow but I’m not making excuses, I’m not saying that’s why I lost because it’s not. I still thought I put on a good show and I knew it was going to be my last fight win, lose or draw. But the specialist reckons if I’d have got really caught on the chin I could have ended up paralysed.”
He is now awaiting an operation to replace two discs in his spine. “If I don’t get them taken out, it’s just going to get worse and worse case scenario, if I left it, I’d end up in a wheelchair,” Stuey noted.
His second specialist, when he found out Hall had boxed with this condition, said, “That is the most crazy thing I’ve ever heard.”
Stuey continued, “He said even if you got your head jabbed back, from the front to the back at a certain speed, it could have caused you some serious damage.
“It’s over now anyway. I’m not going to do this anymore… I think the most strenuous thing I’ll be doing now is swinging a golf club.”