(David Haye, left; Dereck Chisora, right)
Britain’s fight trade, concerned with the prospect of boxing fading from the national consciousness during a long and heady summer of sport, need not have succumbed to fret. Amid blanket coverage centred on home fortunes at Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the forthcoming London Olympics, the ugliest sister of them all held her own in the news. And all it needed was a few counts of grievous bodily harm.
After Bermondsey’s David Haye committed an assault upon Finchley’s Dereck Chisora in February before setting about Chisora’s 50-year-old trainer Don Charles and then his own confidante and serf, Adam Booth, footage quickly leaked and went viral. With millions of Internet hits and counting, promoter Frank Warren followed the money and started plotting a rematch in the best traditions of a hooky street veteran. The resulting standoff takes place under the rulings of the Marquis of Queensberry in London on Saturday.
Malevolence, bluff and controversy have pervaded the U.K.’s biggest match-up of 2012. Warren has pulled more strokes than “Del Boy” Trotter in realising a somewhat tawdry affair between Haye, officially retired, and Chisora, officially banned, before a baying mob at the Boleyn Ground in Upton Park. The British Boxing Board of Control have ratified licenses for neither and so hired guns, in the amenable shape of the Luxembourg Boxing Federation, have been drafted in as official sponsors (much to the chagrin of those in support of the Board and indeed any remaining trace of sportsmanship and decency). For many, the clash is exploitation and little else — an exercise to rival even the murkiest of episodes used to suck the dregs from Mike Tyson’s career. Yet beyond the hand-wringing and soapboxing that has surrounded it, there exists a heavyweight contest that could, just could, spawn the most stirring encounter between big men since an over the hill Lennox Lewis and a maniacal Vitali Klitschko came together like rutting walruses in 2003.
With tattered reputations, Haye and Chisora, outlaws in their own city, limped toward the only well-paid gig left available to them. Haye, who could match socialite Victoria Beckham in the media savoir faire stakes, spotted a nice little earner along similar lines to the previous tat he has foisted happily onto the masses. Despite promising devastating in-ring displays — everything from decapitation to gang rape — in fact, against a triumvirate that consisted of the woefully inept Russian Nikolay Valuev, England’s very own Cowardly Lion, Audley Harrison, and the heavyweight champion of the world, Wladimir Klitschko, Haye boxed with care, economy and tentativeness respectively. And while his swag bag bulged, Haye’s reputation fell apart.
Chisora probably hasn’t even bothered to count his cut. A misanthrope with sociopathic traits, the Zimbabwe-born prospect has been left smouldering at Haye’s affront, sold on exacting revenge as though entwined in an Albanian blood feud. Chisora burns for his chance to retaliate. At Wednesday’s final press conference, he seemed to be bursting with glee as his big moment grew near. Time, he chuckled, to “go crazy on David Haye.”
With a record of 15-3 (9), Chisora is still learning his trade. A come-forward, durable and free-swinging presser, Chisora throws bundles of hooks and when fit, sets a pace that most modern-day heavyweights would struggle to live with. Too raw to have yet absorbed the subtle nuances ingrained in masters of his style, and without sufficient power to press home his aggression, “Del Boy” trades on nuts, guts and a fighting spirit virtually redundant among his peers.
Haye, 25-2 (23), is a former cruiserweight kingpin with a keener eye for a deal than former Tottenham Hotspur guardian Harry Redknapp. Spitting out a rhetoric that would make a salesman blush, he has failed to live up to his own ridiculous hype. As a heavyweight, Haye has managed slog out a pair of tougher than anticipated victories over the weather-beaten duo Monte Barrett and John Ruiz, walked over the thoroughly overmatched Harrison and then fenced nervously against Valuev and Klitschko. Chisora meanwhile has beaten Sam Sexton twice, crushed a horribly faded Danny Williams, taken a hiding at the hands of fellow prospect Tyson Fury, clearly outfought the well-regarded puncher Robert Helenius and then lost gamely on points to Vitali Klitscho. Ali-Frazier, plainly, this is not.
Haye and his trainer Adam Booth are calculating, pernickety, contrary and at times deluded. Self-proclaimed strategists, they almost contrived to fluff the Valuev fight completely while Haye’s pacifistic showing against Klitschko will likely haunt him for the rest of his days. Haye will be aiming for precision, space, movement and the perfect moment to land his devastating right hand, tactics diametrically opposed to those of his opponent.
Chisora, difficult to advise, will go hell for leather from the opening bell. He’ll hit arms, hips, groin and neck — any target he can, as long as it’s attached to David Haye. Chisora’s promoter, Frank Warren, has talked up the steeliness of his chin in the lead up, a shield Chisora will need to hold true in the face of pretty foreboding firepower. An 11/4 outsider, Chisora will be hoping to overrun Haye — whose punch output can be anaemic at times — down the stretch.
When looking for a winner, reflections of that dark night in Munich are difficult to discount. A tattered and ruffled looking Haye, spooked at Chisora’s ability to shake off his best punch, can edge matters on points before reaching out in the aftermath, grasping desperately for a Klitschko brother to agree his next deal with. Chisora, still game and still steaming, will be looking for him, desperate to keep on fighting and keep punching to an end that comes far beyond any final bell.