Boxing: Bad lad Chisora is saved by the bell

Del Boy was banned for nibbling a fighter's ear but has he bitten off more than he can chew with Klitschko?

Without throwing a punch Dereck Chisora has landed one in the eye for the WBA heavyweight champion David Haye by signing for back-to-back fights against the Klitschkos – that is, if he isn't flat on his own back after meeting the younger sibling for Wladimir's IBF and WBO world titles in Germany on 11 December.

While Haye has elected to take on Audley Harrison in Manchester on 13 November instead of facing either Vitali or Wladimir, claiming he was unhappy with the terms offered, Chisora, the little-known British and Commonwealth champion, now has the world at his fists after a mere 14 fights. And surprisingly, he has Haye's blessing.

"I'm quite pleased for him," Haye tells us. "To get a world-title fight that soon is quite something. I'm not sure who he's beaten to deserve it, but good luck to him. I just hope he's getting a big day and can give a good account of himself for five or six rounds and throw some punches. Nothing in his career so far suggests he has anything to win this fight, but it takes only one shot, so fingers crossed. But even if he gets knocked out in a couple of rounds he can say, 'It's no big deal, I just didn't have the experience'."

Doesn't Haye feel he has been gazumped? "No. If the contract resembles anything they wanted me to sign he'll be tied up for the next couple of years fighting in Germany. I wasn't prepared to accept that. I don't want anyone to own me. But once Wladimir has beaten Chisora and Vitali has finished with Shannon Briggs [the WBC champ fought him last night] they'll realise there's no one else they can dig up to fight so they'll have to face me."

However Chisora, 26, who was in Hamburg last night to watch Vitali's defence against Briggs, may have another battle on his hands following a court appearance at Westminster on Friday charged with assaulting his former partner.

He is certainly something of an enigma, another of that prolific breed of wayward young men claiming to have been weaned off the mean streets and back on to the straight and narrow, saved by the bell – the one that sounds in the boxing ring.

Yet in his case there is no blue-collar background. He comes from a wealthy family in Zimbabwe and went to public school in London before embarking on a career of petty crime which almost landed him in jail. He followed his mother to Britain aged 16 when his parents split up – his father owns 18 farms around Harare – attending the Prince Edward School before, in his words, "becoming a bit of a bad lad".

He says: "I fell in with the wrong crowd, the usual petty crime and a bit of attempted burglary and this and that. I nearly got sent to prison. I think they saw I wasn't ruthless and they listened to my probation officer, Peter Yates. It was him who persuaded me to take up boxing. He fixed me up at the Finchley club and the first time I got in the ring, I got smacked in the nose and it brought tears to my eyes. I walked out of the gym but the trainer, Johnny Spencer, called me back and said, 'What are you doing? Get back in. This is boxing'. So I did, and here I am, British champion and challenging for the world title.

"The way my life was going, I would have ended up badly injured or killed by a knife or a bullet. Luckily I woke up one morning and realised I was just another fat kid going nowhere. Boxing brought me to my senses."

Subsequently, the 6ft 1in Chisora became the ABA champion and now, with only those 14 unbeaten paid fights behind him, is the least experienced heavyweight to challenge for the world title since the gap-toothed American Leon Spinks stunningly outpointed Muhammad Ali 32 years ago in only his eighth pro fight.

So is it simply a case of a foolish Chisora rushing in where the Hayemaker apparently fears to tread? "Nah. Wladimir is a good strong champion, technically excellent, but I believe I can bring something new to beat him. I am young, and I'm fresh and I'm hungry, and I've got the punch to back me up. One shot is all I'll need."

Although he jokes that he is the only black guy who lives in swish Hampstead Garden, he talks as if he comes from Peckham rather than NW3, hence the nickname Del Boy, and entering the ring in Union Jack shorts to the theme tune from Only Fools and Horses. Why Del Boy? "I thought about it and said, 'I do sell cars and talk a lot of shit, so fuck it, I'll be Del Boy'."

The cars that Chisora buys and sells are mainly posh, upmarket vehicles, including Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Daimlers. He makes a nice little earner selling them under the name Dereck's Association of Finchley Traders – or DAFT for short. He also collects antiques and has an old-style parking meter which he bought for £100 and is in the market for a red phone box and pillar box. "They're real nice. I also want an old London taxi and a double-decker bus."

Idiosyncratic he may be, but boxing-wise he won't freeze or faff around. He lacks neither self-belief nor controversy, with Tyson-esque tendencies in stature, style and temperament. Earlier this year he was suspended for five months and fined £2,500 for biting opponent Paul Butlin's ear. "I was bored," was his explanation. "The guy hadn't come to fight so I thought I'd liven things up a little bit."

Saturday 11 December will be the biggest night British boxing has seen for some years, with not only Klitschko versus Chisora in Germany but Warren's 30th anniversary show in Liverpool featuring a fistful of champions, among them Nathan Cleverly in a world title fight and a tasty domestic scrap, James DeGale challenging Paul Smith – his best friend in boxing – for the Liverpudlian's British super-middleweight title. A few hours later comes Amir Khan's WBA lightweight title defence in Las Vegas against Argentinian Marcos Maidana, a real tough hombre who boasts an even harder punch that Khan's earlier nemesis, Breidis Prescott.

Chisora's promoter Frank Warren says: "We know this is a tough fight for Del, a big step up. He's been driving me round the bend asking 'Do you believe I can win?' He's big, strong and powerful and has no fear. So yes, I do. Unlike Haye, for him this is about the challenge, not the money."

"I'll give Klitschko the utmost respect" grins Chisora. "But he'd better know I won't be training my jacksie off for nothing." Daring Del Boy is one of boxing's cheekiest chappies, causing a rumpus at a weigh-in when he planted a kiss – a real smacker – on the lips of another opponent, Carl Baker. He will be well-advised to stick to shaking hands with Wladimir.

Haye v Harrison is live in HD on Sky Box Office and also in 3D

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