To anticipate the return of a boxer who has lost four out of his last five bouts is unusual. And yet, it is impossible to ignore the news that British heavyweight contender and resident troublemaker Dereck Chisora has regained his British Boxing Board of Control license in advance of his April 20 return (per The Guardian).
Chisora (15-4, 9 KO) will fight Ondrej Pala at London’s Wembley Arena in what will be his first fight since a crushing, compelling and controversial (in terms of promotion) fifth-round TKO loss to David Haye in July 2012.
As memorable as that bout was, Chisora and Haye added their own dose of pizzazz to the promotion by brawling at the press conference after Chisora had dropped a gutsy but lopsided decision to WBC champion Vitali Klitschko.
In order to fight, Chisora and Haye sought licenses from Luxembourg, and the result was a compelling fight in front of a raucous—albeit rain-soaked—crowd. Given that the heavyweight division has been top-heavy for years and ruled—or held hostage, depending on one’s allegiances—by the Klitschko brothers, Chisora’s return should be greeted with open arms.
Chisora immediately becomes an important addition to a division whose depth is slowly building. The problems with the heavyweight division over the past decade have been the recycling of ancient contenders and a lack of crossover personalities amongst the division’s most visible fighters.
While the somewhat crude Chisora won’t likely put the “glamour” back into boxing’s glamour division, he does come equipped with a highly marketable personality.
But more importantly, Chisora also brings a measure of skill and a generally fan-friendly style to the ring. The controversy and extracurricular shenanigans that follow suit are simply a sort of perverse bonus. “Bonus,” of course, can only be loosely applied, as the kind of antics Chisora engaged in during and after his loss to Klitschko are nothing to aspire to.
As a fighter, Chisora is young, talented and durable (loss to Haye aside). Chisora defeated Danny Williams in only his 13th professional fight to win the British heavyweight title. He then defended the strap twice while adding the Commonwealth belt to his haul, only to lose both titles to Tyson Fury in a bout where Chisora weighed an absurd 261 pounds.
One can speculate how that fight would have gone had Chisora been in shape, but this inconsistency is merely an aspect of Chisora’s mercurial personality. Despite a lame performance against Fury, Chisora deserved to soundly defeat Robert Helenius but settled for a split-decision loss. The Helenius fight, however, showed many of Chisora’s positive qualities and reminded fans and pundits that he has serious potential.
When Chisora challenged Klitschko for the Ukrainian’s WBC title, he was clearly beaten but fought gamely and absorbed tremendous punishment. By refusing to cower, Chisora showed he possesses the fortitude to at least compete with, and possibly defeat, most of the contenders vying for a shot at either Klitschko brother. Chisora’s skills and willingness to fight mean that he should remain in the heavyweight mix.
The fact that Chisora is also marketable, for better or worse, and has a compelling personality makes him that much more valuable as an active fighter. Chisora, as one might expect, tends to agree (per the BBC):
Boxing is dead and you need people like me to bring it back up.
Someone has to take the bad role and as long as people are tuning in and watching the sport that I love, I don't mind.
Now, don’t mistake Chisora’s desire to help the sport he loves as pure altruism. In fact, when asked about the consequences of his disturbing antics, Chisora candidly replied, “It made me more money” (per The Sun).
Embattled promoter Frank Warren feels that Chisora is as likely to become a world champion as fellow British contenders Fury and David Price. While such claims are certainly hyperbolic, Chisora could soon find himself in a fight against the likes of Price or Fury if he strings together a few solid wins.
While the undefeated Fury remains on course toward securing an eventual world title shot, which could be imminent if he defeats Steve Cunningham on April 20, the prospect of Chisora facing the recently defeated Price is more realistic. Chisora has expressed interest in the fight and would even be willing to travel to Price’s hometown of Liverpool (per ESPN UK).
Despite only 19 career fights, Chisora has shown a willingness to make significant fights and doesn’t seem overly concerned with preserving a glossy record. Chisora also has a keen understanding that perfect circumstances, whether in terms of securing a fight or how one is perceived, simply do not exist.
In this regard, Chisora is a throwback. And considering how the majority of athletes speak only in rehearsed clichés, his candid demeanour and stark honesty are refreshing. Consider what Chisora said when discussing the measures he has taken to correct his behaviour: “I did take [anger classes] but I've kind of stopped now. We'll see one day if it's worked.”
Fans and pundits will just have to wait and see whether Chisora fulfils his potential or suffers a spectacular meltdown. But the mere fact that the public is eager to find out shows that Chisora can benefit the sport and the heavyweight division. In a way, he’s already won half his battle.