By Geoff Poundes.
In the end it was much ado about nothing. Britisher Dereck Chisora had done his level best to elevate this WBC heavyweight title fight to something more than a sideshow, when he took a cheap shot at champion Vitali Klitschko at the weigh-in and administered a girlish right-hand slap to the Ukrainian’s cheek. In the aftermath, a row broke out between both camps, exacerbated by a quite ridiculous statement from the increasingly ludicrous WBC (who’s President Jose Sulamain presumed himself judge and jury and announced he’d fine Chisora). Chisora claimed that the slap was payback for various Klitschko slights over two years of fight negotiations, whereas Vitali pointed to Dereck’s bizarre behaviour as proof positive the Englishman was scared out of his wits.
The Klitschko’s are, of course, nothing if not control freaks, and on fight-night they engineered their own dressing room drama when they sent younger brother Wladmir into Chisora’s room to insist his hands be re-wrapped. It seems that Dereck took the bait and threw Klitschko out, at one point refusing to glove up, and there was a self-satisfied smile on Wlad’s lips when he was interviewed out in the corridor. “I’ve been in boxing for sixteen years and I know the rules” he said, though he resisted the temptation to wink.
Dereck responded by chasing across the ring as Vitali ducked through the ropes after an extended ring-walk, his face hidden beneath a Union Jack neckerchief like a wild-west villain, and had to be held back by promoter Frank Warren, otherwise the contest might have taken off there and then amongst all the garish paraphernalia of a K2 promotion. He then spat water in Wladmir’s face as Michael Buffer made his announcements.
In the event the pre-fight shenanigans prefaced a pretty entertaining match in which Chisora at least did himself justice in front of 13,000 at the Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany. For all Chisora’s pre-fight bluff and bluster, he gave Dr. Ironfist plenty to handle, even if the scorecards predictably made him a wide loser.
There were those of us who, whilst deploring the always unpredictable Englishman’s antics, had felt that the slap might actually have served Chisora’s cause well – and that if Dereck could repeat the work-rate and speed he’d shown in his previous outing when losing a disputed decision to Robert Hellenius, then he might have something to show to a champion who might have been knocked off his stride pre-fight. Despite Vitali’s impressive record, there has long been a suspicion, fostered way back in 2000 when he threw in the towel to Chris Byrd, that if put under sustained pressure the elder Klitschko might fold.
But not a bit of it. During the referee’s instructions, all eyes were on the ex-British champion, wondering if the maverick challenger might spring another surprise, but big Dereck was, for once, good as gold. Klitschko simply glowered down grimly on the smaller man, and if he’d been shaken by Chisora pre-fight, it didn’t show.
Chisora came out smoking for the first round, rolling underneath Vitali’s short punches and bowling big right hands over the top with some success. The pattern of the fight was set, and for the next three rounds Chisora continued to set the pace. However, the champion managed to catch Dereck as he came forward with rights and lefts and the odd uppercut, so that when the scorecards were shouted out at the end of the fourth, as is the WBC’s awful practice, Vitali was four rounds to the good.
Given that Chisora was fighting on German soil, it was clear that he was not going to get a decision from the moment he inked the contract, and that was confirmed when the next scores were announced after the ninth. Chisora had stepped up the pace from the fifth onwards, responding to his corner’s urging to “let your hands go”, so that Klitschko began to look disorganised and unhappy as the British fighter chugged forward swinging lefts and rights from all angles. Chisora clearly won the sixth, seventh and eighth but lost them in the jaundiced eyes of the judges, but from that point on Klitschko demonstrated the experience he’s gained from more than ten years at the top by taking the championship rounds, with the exception of the twelfth round, when he rested while Chisora kept right on smoking, chucking those hooks. The final scorecards were, as ever in Germany, a disgrace: 118-110 twice and 119-111. This scribe scored the fight 116-113.
After the fight, the bad blood continued, and Chisora managed still to get himself into a face off with brother Wladmir as Vitali celebrated the win. On this showing, and after only 18 professional fights, (15 wins, 3 losses) Chisora has firmly ensconced himself in the world title picture, and he was unrepentant when questioned about his pre-fight behaviour as the partisan German crowd screamed out their indignation: “They can boo me and hate me – I don’t care. The only thing that beat me today was experience. There should be a rematch or a fight with the younger brother.”
Vitali, now 44-2, 40 KO’s,was more magnanimous, perhaps because at times in the fight he’d been shown to be every inch a 40 year old. “I’m very happy to defend my title” he said. “Not an easy fight. Good performance from Chisora, he pressured me every round. I am a bit upset because I wanted to finish the fight inside twelve rounds. He tried to punch me to the body, but I have a good stomach. I have respect for Chisora as a fighter, but no respect for him as a human. He’s not a gentleman.”