Dereck Chisora: Inexcusable, embarrassing – but let me keep fighting
In his first interview since the infamous brawl with David Haye, the bad boy of British boxing reveals how his mother's illness brought home his ignominy. Alan Hubbard meets Dereck Chisora
Sunday 11 March 2012
At around tea-time on Wednesday, the heavyweight boxer Dereck Chisora will learn whether he will lose his licence, and perhaps his livelihood, as a result of moments of madness in Munich three weeks ago when he slapped his opponent, the world champion Vitali Klitschko, at the weigh-in, spat at his brother Wladimir in the ring and brawled after the fight with fellow Briton David Haye – spectacularly unsavoury scenes which have caused worldwide outrage.
He now has to answer to the British Boxing Board of Control, who have summoned him to a hearing at their headquarters in Cardiff. As far as the media and the masses are concerned he is guilty as charged but the 28-year-old Chisora hopes that his obvious contrition and what he believes are mitigating circumstances will be taken into account and that he will be allowed to box on. When – if ever – will be determined by the Board stewards who have the power to fine or ban him, even for life.
Last week he emerged from a two-hour meeting with the renowned sports lawyer Jonathan Crystal, who will be fighting his corner in Cardiff, to talk exclusively to The Independent on Sunday, revealing that for him the worst aspect of the sorry affair was the effect that it has had on his mother, Viola.
After turning on the television the morning after the fight, watching the unseemly events and hearing the pundits' suggestion that her son faced a life ban, she collapsed to the floor. "I got a call to say she'd had a panic attack and been rushed to hospital," said Chisora.
"Her first words to me when I got back and went straight to the hospital were: 'What are you going to do if they take away your licence?' There was nothing I could say to her. All I could do was keep quiet.
"Believe me, I'm more afraid of my mother than any opponent in the ring. She is worried they'll take away my licence to box and where I'll go to from here. She depends on me."
Speaking quietly, sometimes almost inaudibly, he admitted: "My behaviour was inexcusable, but there was many things that went on behind the scenes that people don't know about. I suppose ultimately they just caused my frustrations to boil over. When I look back on it all now I am really embarrassed. There was nothing premeditated. It was all spontaneous. Something kicked in. It just happened. When I slapped Vitali I immediately regretted it. I was thinking to myself: 'What did I do that for?'"
He reveals that subsequently, backstage before the fight, he threatened not to go through with it. "There were loads of problems in the dressing room and I was very upset with Vitali's brother, Wladimir. He just barged in and was right in my face, interfering while I was getting my hands wrapped, saying that this was wrong and that was wrong. I had to push him away from me. We had a massive argument. I was in my fight zone and it was all designed to mess with my mind.
"The Klitschkos have this image of being such gentlemen but Wladimir was obviously trying to wind me up. I was so annoyed that I said I was not going to fight. I took my wraps off, throwing them to the floor, that was it. I just wanted to go home. Frank Warren [his manager and promoter] had to talk me round.
"The Board of Control chairman [Charles Giles] was at the fight, supposedly to protect my interests. But where was he? As far as I was concerned he was nowhere to be seen when I needed him."
The fight started 20 minutes late and it was then that Chisora snapped again and spat in Wladimir's face before the first bell, arguably the most distasteful of his misdemeanours. "I normally fill my mouth with water and spit it in the air. But something came over me as the referee called us to the centre of the ring and I sprayed it at Wladimir as he stood alongside Vitali. Don't ask me why. I just did."
Chisora proceeded to fight valiantly, giving the 40-year-old Ukrainian the most serious challenge of his career, taking him to a 12-round points decision. "I'm kinda upset because all this has overshadowed my performance in the ring. But you know what? We can move on."
When he later became embroiled in the ugly scrummage in front of TV cameras and the world's media, he threatened to shoot Haye after being hit on the jaw by the former world champion, who was holding a bottle of soft drink in his fist. Del Boy said: "David Haye tried to hijack my press conference, shouting at the Klitschkos, obviously using the occasion to try and set up a fight with Vitali.
"Then he started calling me out, saying I had lost three fights on the spin and he would never fight me. I walked over to him and the next thing I know he punched me with a glass bottle in his hand. I tripped and fell and dragged Haye with me. I was shouting, 'I am going to shoot you', but I would never do that, I don't have a gun, I've never owned one and never will. It was just a stupid remark.
"Obviously I regret everything I did and said. Looking back, it would have been better had I stayed at home."
There is a touch of the Mike Tyson persona about Chisora. Always an edgy enigma, he can be both engagingly pleasant and depressingly manic. There have been suggestions that he should seek psychiatric help. He responds sharply: "Everyone's got their own opinion. Do you think I should?" A hazardous question to answer when you are sitting opposite a 17-stone-plus fighter with a volatile reputation. Whatever anyone thinks, Chisora insists: "Nah, I don't need it." But it is possible that the Board could make this a condition of any return to the ring.
Born in Zimbabwe, Chisora was educated at public school in London and now lives in Hampstead, where he collects antiques and vintage cars. Yet he admits to being a teenage tearaway and did community service after slapping a girlfriend. He was also suspended for four months by the Board after biting an opponent, claiming he was "bored".
When I asked if he expected the Board to throw the book at him, he grinned with a rare flash of levity. "If they do, I'll catch it and read it!" More seriously he added: "All I want is to give my side of things and be treated fairly. But whatever punishment they inflict, I'll take it on the chin.
"Maybe they've already made up their minds. Maybe they want to make an example of me. Everything's in God's hands. If they ban me, I'm not going to be sulking around the house. I'll still be training because I'm a fighter and I love fighting.
"I just hope they realise how sorry I am and that all I really want is for me to be allowed to get back in the ring again and do what I do best, and fight. Because I know one day I will be the world heavyweight champion and that Britain will be proud of me."
Banned bad boys
Dereck Chisora has already been arbitrarily banned sine die by the World Boxing Council from fights under their jurisdiction pending a hearing. But precedents suggest the British Boxing Board of Control will be more lenient.
Only one British boxer has been given a life ban, the light-heavyweight Bobby Frankham for striking the referee in 1987. Suspensions are rare, though Chisora himself was banned for four months in 2009 for biting an opponent and last year Welsh light-middleweight Rhys Saunders was suspended for nine months after an altercation in the ring following his disqualification.
Audley Harrison, Herbie Hide and Mark Kaylor were all hit with hefty fines after brawls outside the ring and Mike Tyson was fined £125,0000 by the Board for his unruly conduct when he fought in Glasgow 12 years ago. Tyson also suffered boxing's biggest-ever fine, US$3 million, and a 15-month ban by the Nevada Commission for chewing Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997.
Also in the United States, Puerto Rican Luis Resto was banned for life and jailed with his trainer Panama Lewis after stuffing was removed from his gloves before he battered Billy Collins in 1983. Others famously banned include Jake La Motta – seven months for throwng a fight – while Muhammad Ali was exiled for three years for refusing the draft.
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