HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD – 2.4.16
By Alan Hubbard
Am I alone in thinking that the Eubanks, dad and lad, are making a meal of the Nick Blackwell situation – one that is leaving a slightly nasty taste in the mouth?
Was it really necessary of them to call a press conference some 48 hours after the stricken Blackwell has been hospitalised in an induced coma to suggest that between them they had actually saved his life?
Chris Eubank snr made great play of telling everyone, as he did later in a BBC radio interview, that he had instructed his son to stop throwing head punches because he could see that the defending British middleweight champion was in distress.
He claimed: ‘I said ‘look, Junior’, it was a command, it was ‘leave the face alone, go to the body’. You are likely to stop him there as well. You see the body can repair, but the head doesn’t.”
Not for a moment do I doubt the sincerity of their expressed compassion but to reveal it publicly in such detail smacks to me of being a touch sanctimonious.
For what is curious is that watching a replay of the Wembley fight on tape, Eubank jnr was still throwing head punches, as well as those to the body, shortly before it was stopped in the tenth.
The question is how much notice does Eubank jnr take of his flamboyant father in the corner
Rewind to a few rounds earlier and you will hear young Chris brusquely snap “Enough!” at the immaculately booted and suited Eubank snr as he prattles on in front of him.
No, what almost certainly saved Blackwell’s life was not Eubank holding off but the decision of referee Victor Loughlin to summon the doctor to inspect the shelf-like swelling above Blackwell’s left eye and then immediately call off the contest on the medico’s advice.
But the one certainty is that what happened to Blackwell will not make an iota of difference to the way Eubank jnr, or any other fighter, approaches his next contest – no more than it did his father after Michael Watson was left brain-damaged following their bout ago 25 years ago.
As Sugar Ray Robinson told a US coroner when asked if he had intended to hurt opponent Jimmy Doyle, who died after their 1947 bout: ”Sir, it’s my business to keep fighters in trouble when they’re hurt. I am in the hurt business.”
Inadvertently or otherwise, Eubank snr has gained publicity for his son’s, prowess as a hurtful puncher (which actually he isn’t when examining his record) on suggesting he wanted the fight stopped sooner.
As Frank Warren has pointed out, Eubank snr is now being hailed as something of a saviour but was he really being altruistic or was this simply a tactical move, believing that the tiring Blackwell was more likely to be worn down by body shots than head punches in the latter stages of the fight?
Inevitably the abolitionists like the MP Paul Flynn, who wants punches to the head banned, are back aboard the abolitionist bandwagon, as happens whenever a boxer suffers serious injury.
But pray tell me, in which major sport is a competitor not at some sort of risk these days?
It was only in November 2014 that Australian Test cricket star Philip Hughes died after being struck on the back of the neck by a delivery during a domestic match in Sydney and s cyclist died in a pile-up during a race in Belgium only last weekend.
It is unfortunate that boxing finds itself in another perilous situation but, as we have said before by its very nature this is a high-risk business. As with life itself, so much of sport is these days – not just the fight game.
Sport is a metaphor for life, and always has been.
We risk our lives every time we step outside our front door, especially in these grim times of terrorist atrocities.
So it is with sport. You may get hurt – and sometimes do. But it is a risk you readily take.
Boxers, like jump jockeys, motor racing drivers, bob skeleton racers and mountaineers surely are as much entitled to freedom of choice as the rest of us.
That risk is always there, whatever the sport, and some may argue that it is more acute in boxing than most others, but statistics continue to show that boxing – notably in this country, where the safeguards are so much improved – is by no means the most dangerous activity of all.
Tragic incidents happen in boxing as they do in many other sports, not least equestrianism and rugby, the latter currently undergoing much scrutiny because of the increasing incidence of concussion.
There has even been a suggestion that the very rudiment of the game, tackling, should be banned for kids. How daft is that?
I have always been of the old school which believes that boxing does more good than harm, not least as an antidote to waywardness among young people.
By and large boxers themselves always seem to emerge a different breed, defined by their courage, dignity and discipline.
Thank goodness the portents are good as far as Blackwell is concerned. He is a tough kid and unquestionably a brave one.
Wembley may have provided a disquieting moment of déjà vu for Eubank snr but on the night of the Watson fight there were a number of cock-ups out if which came regulations involving the investment in the presence of ambulances, paramedics and an anaesthetist which have proved both essential and wise.
These, together with the prompt action of the referee and doctor, surely were more responsible for saving Blackwell’s life than any much-publicised act of clemency urged on his son by Chris Eubank snr.
Tomorrow: Catch up with Alan Hubbard’s Punchlines exclusively at frankwarren.com