Sunday, 15 July 2012

Chisora confirms "nearly man" status against Haye

Having earned his stripes inside the ring after a valiant tussle with Vitali Klitschko, Dereck Chisora redeemed himself once more at Upton Park this weekend, standing arm in arm with David Haye, his former rival, after suffering a vicious fifth round knockout. Respect is paramount to any fighter in this, the most demanding of sports, and Chisora gained that after he and Haye put their differences to bed. It’s a familiar, depressing tale in some ways for Chisora, who has now lost four of his last five fights, despite performing in such a courageous manner once again.

That steely determination and calm head inside the ring against Klitschko, of course, was sullied after the Munich fracas, a sentiment not lost on the East London crowd who booed Chisora on his way to the ring. Chisora took a while to get going as Haye, a picture of undeterred concentration, controlled the ring and worked his jab.

It seemed Chisora was looking for one big shot, and his eagerness to march Haye into the ropes paid off in the third when he connected with an overhand right, one of his most utilized trademarks. The fourth round, though, brought about Chisora’s most spiteful, hurtful attacks. Indeed, he was on a roll at the bell and, lamentably, caught Haye flush on the jaw with a lunging right after the bell sounded.

That was Haye’s wake up call. The Bermondsey fighter was making Chisora miss and dropped him with two swinging hooks as Chisora, showing his tactical naivety, blundered towards the ropes hoping for an advantage. After an eight count, Haye surged in with a blur of thudding hooks to the body and jaw. Chisora flailed at will then collapsed to the canvas, forming the most damning of sights for any boxer. Haye became the first man to knock out Chisora, the first man to break both his iron chin and immovable will.

During the post-fight press conference, there were no tripods, threats or scuffles, just Haye talking about how much respect he’d gained for Chisora. The wonderful thing about boxing, particularly a fight such as this, is that many times both the victor and the loser exit the ring drawing acclaim from pundits and fans alike for their efforts. For any sportsman to train hard, prepare for one opponent, and alienate themselves from friends, family and society for months before a fight is such a commendable task.

Of course, Chisora merely managed to prolong his reputation as a nearly man here. Since his surrender against Tyson Fury in 2011, Chisora has turned his career around and set his sights on bigger challenges, as well as a more focussed, disciplined approach to his work. His efforts against Klitschko and Haye were genuine and admirable, but it’s sad to see a fighter of Chisora’s standing slide down the ladder due to a seemingly chronic inability to win fights.

During the Klitschko fight, Chisora found inroads to both attack and ask Vitali questions – something barely anyone can do these days – but he lacked a certain cutting edge, verve or power. The Haye fight, it must be said, followed a similar pattern. Chisora advanced in hope of a heavy right hand but his inability to trade on the inside let him down. He hit Haye with good shots in the third and fourth – before and after the bell, that is – but his lack of power told. A record of nine knockouts in 19 professional contests, especially for a heavyweight like Chisora, does not lead to images of an explosive puncher.  

Chisora’s plight illustrates the unforgiving, fickle nature of boxing perfectly. Boxing rewards resolve, heart and mental fortitude, but not for the loser. Sports are rarely as black-and-white in their outcomes as boxing.

Throughout his career, Chisora has quietly beaten his way through the domestic heavyweight scene, challenged for a world title, and battled manfully against Haye, Britain’s greatest heavyweight since Lennox Lewis. However, he’ll still be remembered as man who came second best, repeatedly, on the biggest stage.

In the last year, granted, Chisora has improved at an arresting rate like few British heavyweights before him. Sadly, it hasn’t been good enough. Chisora is such a polarising character and his last few fights have stirred the soul enough to keep him as an attractive draw for promoters and fans alike – only what level will this be at?

A fight for David Price’s Commonwealth and British titles could be a well needed step up for Price, whereas a rematch with Robert Helenius or a test against Tor Hamer, the recent Prizefighter winner, could also happen. The Haye fight, of course, reaffirmed Chisora’s mettle and dedication to the cause but it’s the same outcome – all the potential in the world but no end product. 

By Alistair Hendrie

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