On a night of savage excesses in the boxing capitals of Las Vegas and West Ham, two British fighters each experienced brutal defeats in fights that ended the so-called boxing season.
In Las Vegas, Amir Khan walked from the comfort of all that he has mastered as Freddie Roach's protégé went back to his wild days as a foolish slugger and was stopped on his feet but out of his head in round four. Khan lost his recently restored WBA belt but Danny Garcia's fists inflicted something far more severe than the passing of a gaudy bauble; Khan's entire career is in jeopardy after yet another rubber-legged finale.
Meanwhile, David Haye finally found a series of punches to separate the bravery from the reality in Dereck Chisora's audacious attempt at revenge for their much-publicised public brawl in February. In round five of a pulsating fight, Chisora was wrong-footed and, as he lunged forward, Haye connected with a stunning southpaw left to drop Chisora just as the fight was getting very interesting. Chisora somehow beat the count, struggled on but a final left hook sent him down again and as he stood unsteadily at nine, the referee waved it off with one second in the round remaining. It was one of the best British heavyweight fights.
It was also a night for the sport's fans with more than 30,000 turning up in the rain at Upton Park to create what was, by fight time, a carnival or pantomime atmosphere that was instantly shattered by the intensity of the two fighters in the ring. Haye was defending a reputation that was hurt when he offered a swollen toe as an excuse for losing to Wladimir Klitschko last July, Chisora was fighting for pride after Haye had bundled him to the ground when they clashed in February; both had redemption as their personal motivation going into the ring.
Haye, a former world champion at two weights, fought a cautious and sensible opening round but by round three was being repeatedly forced to fight his way out of corners. Chisora moved forward, blocking punches but missing with too many and fatally neglecting his jab, which would have helped him control Haye's movement. Both were sucking in large gulps at the end of rounds and it is possible that the mental pressures of the fight added to their early fatigue; it was a giant domestic fight and too easily and lazily dismissed as a sideshow attraction.
"Del was better than I expected and I had to be at my best in there – luckily for me, I was," admitted Haye. The pair embraced at the end, both seemed relieved to be able to finally put the ugliness way, way behind. Chisora has a lot of fights left and Haye continues to insist that he has just one and that it has to be against Vitali Klitschko, the world champion who beat Chisora over 12 rounds in February of this year. Haye was simply irresistible against Chisora and put together the final punches that would compliment any heavyweight.
Khan, like Haye, was the betting favourite going into his fight with Garcia but unlike Haye he refused to stick with a plan, and once again let his often catastrophic fighting heart take over and replace any tactics.
Khan performed to plan for two rounds but was dropped shockingly in round three by a looping left that connected with his neck and chin. Khan bounced down, staggered up and was given the benefit of the doubt by the referee. It ended in round four with Khan dropped twice more but pleading for his career when it was waved off. Khan has been in this position before and was gallant in defeat on that occasion but, at 25, his hard, hard life in the ring appears to have aged him. He also, it needs to be remembered, was an Olympic finalist at 17 and fought about 40 times in the year before the Athens Olympics in 2004. Garcia can fight but he got lucky and has been extended many times by smarter, but not necessarily better, fighters than Khan.
There was much bold and complimentary talk in the defeated fighters' camps at the two remote venues on Saturday night. However, Khan has the most to do, the most to salvage, the most to lose and the heaviest decisions to make. Carl Froch, the current IBF super-middleweight champion, was not alone in suggesting that perhaps it was time Khan called it a day. Any suggestions that Chisora is finished are based on an ignorance of the details that can warp the facts; he has lost four of his last five fights but only to good fighters and only Haye has hurt him. The future is genuinely confused for Khan and could involve a switch in weight and trainer. Haye, meanwhile, is a set of contract negotiations away from a super fight against Vitali Klitschko.Reuse content