Saturday night saw Nick Blackwell unsuccessfully defend his British middleweight title against rival Chris Eubank Jr., who emerged the victor with a tenth round TKO win to his name.
It was a bit of a grudge match. Both men had traded verbal barbs throughout the build-up to the fight. Billy Joe Saunders—Blackwell's teammate and the one man to get the better of Eubank Jr. in professional boxing—even got in the face of Eubank Sr. in the ring before the bout had begun, thrusting his teammate's British title in his face.
While both men traded words with equalling impact before the fight materialized inside the ring, the fight itself was a totally different matter. Eubank Jr. ran the show and dominated the contest, outclassing his opponent throughout—only truly getting caught by one clean Blackwell punch all fight while he was taunting in the direction of Saunders and Tyson Fury who were still vehemently backing their man Blackwell.
Blackwell is as tough as they come and continued to stand up to the punishing blows inflicted by Eubank Jr. With the benefit of hindsight, this was to the detriment of the young 25-year-old's health.
The fight was eventually called off two minutes into the tenth round by referee Victor Loughlin after the ringside doctor voiced his concerns over the gruesome haematoma above and around Blackwell's eye—clearly impairing his vision.
Shortly after the fight, Blackwell collapsed in the ring and was rushed to hospital with bleeding on the brain, before being placed into a medically-induced coma to undergo treatment.
Eubank Sr. himself has had to endure the grim realities of boxing where you have inflicted life-threatening and life-changing injuries upon your opponent. That's not to say the boxer meting out such physical punishment is the victim in this scenario, but you can't deny the mental anguish one would suffer in this instance—and Chris Eubank Sr. Is the perfect example of that with how he dealt with the injuries he dished out to Michael Watson. Watson endured a 40-day coma, six brain surgeries and years of slow and painful rehabilitation to be able to live his life as "normally" as possible following their WBO super middleweight world title fight in 1991.
Sensing that Blackwell was hurt, Eubank Sr. could be heard imploring Loughlin to put a stop to this fight at ringside. Ignored and frustrated, Eubank Sr. took it upon himself to speak to his son after the eighth round to instruct Eubank Jr. to stop punching his opponent upstairs and hit the body instead to avoid causing any further, unnecessary damage to Blackwell.
Eubank Sr. could be heard saying:"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."
Robert Smith, general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) said he was happy with Loughlin's officiating despite what happened on Saturday night. As of now, Blackwell is said to be in a "stable" condition in hospital, though he is "going to be in hospital for some time" according to Smith.
Peter Fury—uncle, manager and trainer to world heavyweight champion Tyson—commended Eubank Sr. for his words despite the bad blood between the two camps before the contest.
With Britain being Britain, there are some cynics out there who feel Eubank Sr.'s words show more concern for his son's progress on the scorecards rather than the health of his opponent Blackwell. But, what Eubank Sr. has experienced with Michael Watson, his clear instruction for Jr. to avoid hitting the head of Blackwell altogether and his despairing disbelief that the fight hadn't been stopped already suggests Eubank Sr. had Blackwell's best intentions at heart.
This is cynicism for cynicism's sake. Even if the context of Eubank Sr.'s words were geared more towards his son's in-ring gameplan, those words still meant Blackwell endured less potentially life-threatening punishment in the ring.
The boxing community in its vast majority has taken to social media to send their messages of support and best wishes to Blackwell as well as their gratitude to Eubank Sr. for being a wise head and for seeing the warning signs Blackwell was displaying in the ring—and rightfully so on both counts.