By Geoff Poundes
It’s easy to forget in the maelstrom of sporting politics surrounding the event, that David Haye and Dereck Chisora’s heavyweight showdown on Saturday night is, at heart, a sporting contest.
There’s no doubt that the fact that the fight now looks like it’s going to happen has major ramifications for British boxing, pitching as it does the sport’s governing body against a major promoter who may, or may not, be acting out of desperation or at the very least, plain greed. Frank Warren’s moral compass is well known to those close to the sport in the UK, but the fact that he’s burning bridges left, right and centre and appearing to endanger promotional relationships with his current stable of fighters suggests that Frank may well be in the last chance saloon, with Haye-Chisora his ticket out of financial difficulty. Doubtless a Chisora win would also reap rewards for Warren as it would almost certainly propel him into a title fight with Waldimir Klitschko, with whom Dereck has some dubious history to resolve.
But enough of the moral and political shenanigans – when the two fighters strip down Saturday night and the first bell sounds we’ll be left with one elemental question, and it’s the one unanswered at every opening bell: who’s the better man in the ring?
Haye, of course, has the better pedigree. A two-weight world champion, and undisputed at cruiserweight, the Hayemaker appeared at one point to be the saviour of the stagnant heavyweight division presided over by the Klitschko brothers. Wladimir put paid to that idea last summer when he shrugged aside a diffident Haye over 12 rounds, and in the process made something of a fool of the Hayemaker, who had mouthed off pre-fight promising a lion-hearted performance, and then fought like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Chisora’s resume is a good deal more sketchy – at 28 years of age he’s still effectively an 18 fight novice, and he’s lost his last three meaningful fights. Chisora will tell you that doesn’t tell the whole story – that he was fat and disinterested when dropping a decision to fellow-prospect Tyson Fury a year ago, that he widely outpointed Robert Hellenius on the latter’s home soil last December, only to be the victim of an outrageous homespun decision, and that in his last fight back in February he ran Vitali Klitschko close over twelve rounds in a world title challenge (actually, the scorecards had him a clear loser).
Both fighters have become pantomime villains since their infamous out of the ring skirmish in the aftermath of Chisora’s loss to Klitschko, and Warren, who initially claimed he’d have nothing to do with pairing them for proper in a boxing ring, has made full use of that unsavoury event to promote this fight – at each presser and at yesterday’s weigh-in the fighters have been separated by a wire fence, re-enforcing the idea that neither boxer can be trusted to behave decently in the face of the other. Haye seems unable to fight unless he’s manufactured a fair degree of hate for his opponent, and Chisora, well, is simply a loose cannon who appears to have little or no control of his actions, as evidenced by the slap he delivered to Vitali at their weigh-in staredown, and the water he spat at Wladimir during the prefight announcements.
Warren has tried to mirror the U.S.’s 24/7, producing a series titled “Behind The Ropes” on his own boxing channel, Boxnation, which will air the Haye-Chisora fight, but in truth the program has been a pale imitation of its American cousin. Neither Haye nor Chisora have lit up the screen a la Floyd Junior, and in fact both fighter’s preparations for the fight have come across as pretty low-key.
Haye weighed in at 211 pounds yesterday, Chisora at 247. Across the wire mesh divide, Chisora looked much the bigger man while Haye 25-2, 23 KO’s, looked, as usual, ripped. There was some surprise as the fight was announced as a ten-rounder, which is strange given that Warren had been able to persuade the equally cash-hungry and morally ambivalent WBA to sanction the fight for an Inter-continental belt of some sort. Chisora suggested that it was 31 year old Haye who had insisted on the shorter distance, and questioned the Hayemaker’s over-exaggerated confidence after the weigh-in:
“You changed the distance, you are scared,” Chisora told Haye, later adding: “Haye was struggling to look me in the eye and kept trying to laugh and look out at the fans.”
Haye was typically blunt in his response, however, saying, “Dereck needs to find somebody to read him his contract because this fight has always been over 10 rounds.”
Warren has suggested that ten rounds would suit Dereck better, but as usual he’s wrong, and probably trying to paper over the fact that Haye has always had the upper hand in the fight negotiations and Warren, who looks after Chisora, has pretty much had to do as he’s told given the financial imperatives. Haye has also vetoed Warren’s first-choice referee. Haye has had stamina issues in the past, so ten rounds would suit him far better.
After all the politicking and the bad blood, this is a difficult fight to call. Whatever his limitations, Chisora is a capable heavyweight with a sound chin and decent work-rate, whereas Haye is a streakish performer who has publicly admitted to having a dodgy chin. Haye relies on speed and power, Chisora on dogged resistance and heart.
I pick Haye to win, because of his greater experience and know-how, but this could go the distance, and there’s no telling how the Hayemaker might react in the second half of the fight if his bombs haven’t moved Chisora, and the bigger man is backing him up and making him fight three minutes of every round.