Watson returns to the London Marathon
Former boxer Michael Watson will return to the scene of perhaps his greatest victory when he is a special guest at the Virgin London Marathon tomorrow.
Eight years ago Watson completed the most remarkable - some would say miraculous - journey of his life when he walked across the London Marathon finish line in The Mall and into the arms of his one-time nemesis Chris Eubank some six days and two hours after his fellow marathoners finished the race.
Tomorrow he will be at the head of the pack, riding in the elite men's lead vehicle with a prime view of some of the fastest men ever to run 26.2 miles.
The two super middleweights had been the fiercest of rivals, their contests reaching a thrilling and horrific climax in September 1991 when their battering 12-round WBO title fight put Watson in a coma for 40 days.
He needed six brain operations and it took months for him to regain speech and movement. Doctors told him he would never walk again. Yet, after six years in a wheelchair he completed the ultimate challenge, a feat beyond most of the healthiest humans. Eubank, long-since reconciled with the man on whom he'd inflicted such physical damage, was there to greet him.
"I never doubted I would finish; I always rise to the challenge," said Watson when he arrived in London this evening. "Fans recognised me on the road and were calling out in support but I would have finished anyway, if nobody had been there. I am not a quitter."
Each mile took Watson an hour. He managed two miles each morning, two in the afternoons, sleeping each night in a double-decker bus. Tomorrow he'll speed ahead of the lead runners at faster than five minutes per mile and arrive in The Mall before midday.
"When I was in hospital I never thought I wouldn't pull through," he said. "When I decided to do the marathon I moved into a gym in Cornwall and had to learn to walk again. I was doing five miles a day over pot holes and all sorts of rough ground.
"I was doing it to help others, to help others who are not as fortunate as me," added Watson, who has since dedicated his life to helping young people.
"Doing the marathon and my other work for young people is about showing them they don't have to be in gangs. They give me respect because they know what I've done, so they listen to what I say. And I shall always go on doing this. My fighting days may be over but I will continue with this work for young people."
For race director David Bedford, Watson's triumph on the London streets ranks as one the greatest moments of his time at the London Marathon helm.
"Seeing Michael reach The Mall was one an emotional moment for all of us at the London Marathon and I am delighted to be able to welcome him back to the event this year," he said. "Michael's journey was a special part of London Marathon history. We all wish him well and hope he has a fantastic day tomorrow."