It was not just size that separated Tyson Fury from his rival Dereck Chisora in their heavyweight affair, after midnight on Saturday inside the ExCel’s north-side caverns.
At the end of round 10 Chisora, his face a mess, stumbled back to his corner and, before he sat down, was told by Don Charles, his trainer and mentor for more than a decade, that it was over. Charles then reached for the gloves to try and remove them to stop Chisora from going back out on his painful lost cause; Chisora dropped his head, Charles waved it off and the fight was over.
Fury was in Chisora’s corner a second later and the pair went through a truly emotional embrace to end about eight months of escalating bad blood.
Fury switched stances and fought throughout as a southpaw; it was both a bold and brilliant move and it just added to Chisora’s pain. Fury was seven inches taller, 23 pounds heavier, had a 10-inch reach advantage and fought as if he had made endless calculations, long before being left alone with the referee to settle their differences inside the ropes.
Their job as boxers was to fight and entertain the remaining members of a loyal flock of 18,500 people that had made the trip to the remote location in London’s old docklands. Fury packed his boxing brain when he travelled south from his gym in Bolton but Chisora arrived for conflict with just his beefy resilience after a short journey from Hampstead in leafy north London.
It is possible to argue that a real fight never happened, that one man dominated and boxed with sense until the other man was broken, bloodied, bruised and dependent on the mercy of his cornermen for securing an ending of any type while still on his feet.
Chisora never flinched from his role in the fight. “It was a bad night and it is a bad time right now. I will have a talk with Dereck and we will see where we go from here,” said Charles. It is a conversation that all devoted trainers of brave fighting men dread.
It looks and feels as if Fury is now a real heavyweight, a man happy with playing the waiting game against good heavyweights – like the battle-hardened Chisora – and he is now ready to float from domestic scraps to trading punches with the three or four top heavyweights in the world.
“That was the real Tyson Fury in there, the man I see every day,” said Peter Fury, his trainer and uncle, although that is an inadequate description of the role he plays.
The path back to contender status, which is a crucial role for a good heavyweight or he will be picked off like an injured gazelle by the young contenders lurking with intent on the fringes, is not as clear for Chisora.
It is possible to argue that this loss was more damaging to his career than all his previous quartet of setbacks; Chisora was simply never in the fight and his heart clearly prolonged his defeat by a round or two – or three. “He couldn’t be pulled out too early, it’s a world title eliminator – the end was right,” argued Frank Warren, who has promoted all of Chisora’s fights so far.
At 26, Fury is still a baby in heavyweight years and, with age on his side, can and will probably need to be patient a bit longer before a suitable opening is created for him to secure a world heavyweight title on decent, rather than slave, terms. In theory, he has to fight the WBO’s long-reigning and seemingly untouchable Wladimir Klitschko by about September next year, but that is a fight that will not be as easy to make as it should be, considering that Fury is now the No 1 contender.
Klitschko, you see, has the power to vacate, to try and veto, and there are also easier and probably more lucrative options open to the great but risk-free champion. “He is a coward and fool for not fighting me – he will keep running,” said Fury, which has been his claim for over two years since a brief spell in Klitschko’s alpine training retreat.
Klitschko, who is a genius manipulator and open about his aversion to risk, twice withdrew from world title fights with Chisora. The negotiating will take place at many levels with some of boxing’s oldest and most experienced fixers all involved and vying for a slither of the money generated if ever Fury and Klitschko did fight.
There is a guy in New York, the greatest fixer of his generation, who collected a small percentage from the grand totals whenever Lennox Lewis fought because he had manoeuvred Lewis from being feared and avoided to challenger and champion. Fury is now ready to make the same small journey and fight for the world title, but for Chisora it will be a month or two of punishing reflection, nights of going over all that went wrong.
The show at the ExCel finished just before 2am, having started at 4pm, and featured 13 contests, including bruising and at times brilliant British title wins for Frankie Gavin and Liam Walsh. It was a busy weekend for British boxing with a total of six shows and 53 fights taking place on Saturday night and shows on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank fight was very, very special.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet boxing, Mickey Rourke returned to the ring and won in two rounds on Friday afternoon in Moscow; Rourke is 62 and he will fight again.
The boxing business is glorious at times but it can be comical and, as Chisora found out on Saturday against Fury, also a heartbreaking sport to pick as a job. Men like Fury and Saunders often fight with the instincts that suggest they had no option and that fighting is the only thing they know. The rest of us can just sit and wonder and admire the brilliance in victory and bravery in defeat.