Terry Dooley reflects on the complexities of Dereck Chisora as he enters into yet another potentially gruelling showdown.
Features and analysis ahead of Whyte vs Chisora II and Warrington vs Frampton
ONE of the final chapters of Thomas Hauser’s definite biography of Muhammad Ali is called The Beating. It chronicles Ali’s ill-advised comeback fight against Larry Holmes in 1980, which ended with “The Greatest” shipping a lot of unneeded punishment en route to a 10th-round retirement reverse.
Ali had one more fight, a 10-round decision defeat to Trevor Berbick, yet the pasting he took from Holmes was particularly visceral. In truth, most fighters ride out of boxing after taking a whipping, or more than one in some instances, and too many former heavyweights leave the sport after taking a few final, harmful fights.
On Saturday night, Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora, 29-8 (21), rematches Dillian Whyte, 24-1 (17), in what is likely to be another tough night for the “Anyone, anytime, anywhere” throwback to a time when fighters just got on with fighting. We should call him “Martini Rosso” Chisora. Their first fight was a mini-classic, a ruckus in D minor. It also had a classic Chisora buildup: verbals, shoving, a hurled table, and some last minute fears that the British Boxing Board of Control would nix the contest due to the carnage caused by Chisora in the final press conference.
All that was missing was the bemusing sight of a poor press officer having to look after his fiancée’s pet Pomeranian, Chewy — a task that Frank Warren’s former PR man Richard Maynard used to be given on a regular basis prior to Chewy’s death in September 2016.
In what Tony Bellew referred to as a return to the days when the likes of Ali and Joe Frazier went to war, Chisora put it all on the line in what seemed like his last big statement. It was similar to a candle producing one last flare of light before going out.
Instead, and true to form, Chisora carried on. He beat Robert Filipovic (rsf 5) in his next one, lost to EBU holder Agit Kabayel (pts 12) then posted back-to-back wins against Zakaria Azzouzi (rsf 2) and Carlos Takam (rsf 8) to earn a second battle with Whyte.
It is no more than the 34-year-old deserves. However, is it what he needs? The man himself tells us that he is a fighter reborn. That the rolling thunder style he always employed to great effect is back and he is badder than ever. He even claims to have calmed down, although there is still an edge there. Watching Chisora in full flow always makes me recall a line from one of my favourite books: ‘There’s a hard streak in you. Something in you that’s like biting on tinfoil,’ (Stephen King, The Stand).
The problem with Chisora is that even at his best he was open to taking a shot or three to land his own and his approach to training is as fitful as his temperament. He was hit hard and often by then-wbc holder Vitali Klitschko in 2012 (l pts 12). David Haye cracked his chin and wiped him out in five later that year.
Then he was pulled out for his own good after 10 rounds in the 2014 return against Tyson Fury and took some torrid stick against Takam. Barring a truly incredible turnaround in form and fighting style he is also likely to give and take a lot of leather against Whyte, too.
Do not worry, this isn’t the opening gambit of a “I’m moralising here, I’M MORALISING HERE” tangent about how, why, and when Chisora should retire. Fighters accrue damage throughout their careers. They make a conscious choice to do so and that decision provides lots of entertainment for me so I never demand that they retire, especially if there is still money to be made.
That isn’t to say that I don’t think about it occasionally. In fact, the issue of the harm accrued in
CHISORA IS A THROWBACK TO THE HEAVYWEIGHTS OF YESTERYEAR”
boxing is like that old riddle. A group of children are killing lice on a temple’s steps. When approached and asked what will happen to the rest of the lice, one of the children says: “We kill the ones we see, the ones we don’t see we take away with us”.
In boxing terms, the lice that are seen is the damage that we bear witness to: the knockouts, failed brain scans, head injuries, muscle tears, and whatnot. The unseen parasites in the riddle are the equivalent of the destruction we do not see, the many miniconcussions that every single fighter picks up due to blunt force trauma. The brain cells that are lost when their heads are being rattled around.
These days, the issue of concussion, depression, and all the stuff that used to sit under the sport’s fingernails has been scraped into a Petri dish and placed under the microscope. We cannot hide from it so have to acknowledge and accept it. We know that both Whyte and Chisora are going to sustain damage on Saturday night: small or big, seen or unseen.
At some point in every career there comes an ‘Enough is enough’ moment, usually after a beating. Chisora has powered through that moment on more than one occasion, which is a good thing — he is fun to watch, fun to listen to, and adds a much-needed edge to the sport. On the few occasions that I’ve met him he has always lived up to his status.
One of our encounters was at Paul Smith’s unsuccessful British super-middleweight title defence against James Degale. A proposed fight with Wladimir Klitscko had fallen through so chancing my arm somewhat, and knowing it would be a bit of a coup if I could get it, I walked over to Chisora and asked for an interview. He looked up, said “I recognise your face,” and then added, “No”.
The seating plan meant that we were sat directly across the ring from each other. Chisora glared at me for a few very uncomfortable minutes before standing up and making his way over to press row. The hulking heavyweight sat down next to me. He slapped me on the knee and said “You are one of those patient people, aren’t you?” then agreed to do an interview.
At its conclusion he remained in someone else’s seat, after all, who was going to ask him to move? We watched Joe Selkirk against Steve O’meara for a few rounds, Chisora offering his reading of the fight in his lilting drawl.
As abruptly as it had begun our mini meeting of minds came to an end. Chisora got up, said “Right, I’ve had enough,” and walked away. He did not even say “Goodbye”.
If Saturday’s fight is as tough as we expect it to be, and if he loses, then maybe he will take stock of his career and decide to walk away. It would be a wise decision: a sound, sensible, and a predictable one — therefore it is probably the exact opposite of what will happen. You never know what to expect when Del Boy’s about, except of course the unexpected — that is why we love him so. Chisora is a throwback to the bonkers heavyweights of yesteryear, but, and I think I will moralise for a second here, I hope he doesn’t end up like most of those guys did: sad-eyed cannon fodder for the up-and-comers.
“Chisel”, to give him his forum nickname, deserves much more.
HARD AS THEY COME: Chisora ships some punches from Whyte and prepares to land his own
BRUISING: Haye measures up his one-time enemy
COURAGEOUS: Chisora goes 12 against Klitschko
STEADY BEATING: Fury hurls punishment during their rematch
BOMBS AWAY: Filipovic braces himself for a wild attack
IMPRESSIVE: Chisora takes away Malik Scott’s unbeaten record
BINGO! Chisora scores a career-best win over Takam