Boxing: Only Fools fan faces fists of Fury as best of British do battle - Others - More Sports - The Independent

Boxing: Only Fools fan faces fists of Fury as best of British do battle

Chisora is favourite for tonight's Wembley heavyweight clash with 'fit not fat' Tyson

Dereck "Del Boy" Chisora is a fan of the comedy Only Fools and Horses, he is the current British heavyweight champion and he is a heavy betting favourite for his fight tonight against Manchester's Tyson Fury.

The pair fight at Wembley, which in many ways is the spiritual home of British heavyweight champions, in what is arguably the most eagerly awaited fight for the domestic championship since the night Lennox Lewis beat Gary Mason in 1991 in the same ring. Lewis, like both Chisora and Fury, was a novice of just 14 fights and on a mission when he beat Mason in a night of pure, old-fashioned bravery and savagery.

The fight has been planned, scrapped and on and off a few times during a turbulent few months of purse bids, promotional rivalry and even the arrival of a new broadcaster in Channel Five. It was scheduled for a bullring in Malaga, one press conference featured two dwarfs as security and another ended with Chisora leaving early after several unnecessary insults from Fury. An apology followed and then Fury, who is part of the travelling community, found a horse and a megaphone and went in search of Chisora on the streets of Finchley: Henry Cooper would have been appalled but Muhammad Ali would have applauded.

Amazingly, the two fighters have never been the full 12 rounds of a championship contest and, to be brutally honest, a dedicated look at their combined records of 28 wins in 28 fights reveals just two, maybe three, opponents with a realistic chance of ever beating either of them. However, the very fact that they have been developed in the time-honoured tradition and yet, at this early stage in their careers, are both prepared to fight each other is what has made the fight such a fantastic attraction; in British boxing we get far too few fights like this and yet in the last three months we have had Olympic gold medallist James DeGale losing to George Groves and now this.

Chisora went nine rounds in his last fight with Sam Sexton in a title defence, but he looked desperately short of breath and desire at the end of round eight. Dean Powell, who was one of the men in his corner, quickly took over and somehow persuaded Chisora to give him "one big last round"; it worked, Powell saved the fight, and Sexton was rescued on his feet after Chisora's impressive response 2:53 into the ninth. The furious ending rescued an exhausted Chisora from the edge of defeat.

Fury has vowed to put an end to the fat that he has been carrying after waking up one morning and deciding that "champions don't look like me". He has trimmed down, altered his diet and finally started to train like a real fighter, which will hopefully put an end to the crazy fluctuations in weight between fights. Fury has gone 10 rounds once and looked fortunate to get the decision over John McDermott. However, in a rematch, McDermott was punished and stopped in nine rounds.

"I know that Chisora is brave and that he will have a proper fight with me, he's a proper fighter and I respect that about him," claimed Fury, who had made a few regrettable comments before the combination of sense and the lurking presence of Max Clifford made him issue an apology to Chisora: "Don't be a plonker, I wasn't serious," Fury offered.

Chisora has twice prepared in vain for planned and then scrapped fights against Wladimir Klitschko during the last six months; in April the fight was called off less than 48 hours before the first bell and there is every reason to believe that if he beats Fury there will finally be a multiple world-title fight against Klitschko.

Fury also has his eyes on a Klitschko, having been recently mentioned by the brothers, but he should be sensible enough to know that he is several fights shy of being good enough to fight either brother. Although that did not stop Fury claiming yesterday that the winner tonight is likely to face David Haye's conqueror. "Wladimir has shown a lot of interest in the winner of this fight. Unofficially, this is a world-title eliminator," Fury claimed. "Hopefully, the winner will do a better job than Haye, which won't be hard."

Tonight could be all about fitness, which is what so often separates big, raw heavyweights when they are finally matched in truly competitive fights. They can, it is true, both punch hard enough, but so many of the men they have beaten went over far too easily; tonight's fight will not end at the first threat of a vicious jab and that is why a longer, draining and tremendously entertaining fight will unfold inside the ring. Fury jokes that the hardest punch he has been hit with was an uppercut that he threw which glanced off his opponent's head and crashed into the side of his own jaw. He did look stunned, to tell the truth.

"I'm 6ft 9in, I'm 18 stone, I've got a heart of a lion and I can punch a bit – I wouldn't want to fight me," said Fury. Chisora never heard Fury's remark because he had refused to attend the press conference. That will all change tonight when the dramatics, the verbals and the wait end and it will all be worth it.

Tale Of The Tape

Wembley Arena, London, Tonight

Dereck Chisora (London)

Age 27; Fights 14: Won 14 – nine by stoppage: Lost 0. BBBofC British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion

Tyson Fury (Manchester)

Age 23; Fights 14: Won 14 – 10 by stoppage: Lost 0. BBBofC English heavyweight champion

Big Hitters: Steve Bunce's best British heavyweight champions since 1950

1. Lennox Lewis: 1991-1992

Lewis made two defences of his title and won the first of his two world heavyweight championships just 13 months after the last defence. 'I wanted to be the British champion first and then world champion,' he said. His British title classic with Gary Mason in 1991 was the last great fight for the old title.

2. Joe Bugner: 1971, 1976-1977

Bugner remains one of British boxing's best fighters never to win a proper world title and that is because his peak coincided with a decade of brilliance featuring Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier. Perhaps best known for sending Henry Cooper into a sour retirement.

3. Henry Cooper: 1959-1969, 1970-1971

Sir Henry reigned supreme for a decade and took part in a total of 12 British title fights. He dropped Ali, he splashed it all over and he was a fierce but good sport. In the ring he was often filthy, never quit and that is why the public adored him.

4. Herbie Hide: 1993-1994

Hide is often overlooked as a champion because of his excessive lifestyle and destructive loss to the great Riddick Bowe in 1995. Hide was a destructive puncher, a terrific mover and on his night would have troubled the best champions.

5. Danny Williams: 2000-2004, 2007-2010

Williams beat Mike Tyson, lost to Vitali Klitschko and had a total of 11 British heavyweight title fights. During the last decade he took on the onerous burden of keeping the British heavyweight division alive. He is, madly, still fighting in Germany.

6. Gary Mason: 1989-1991

Mason was in Frank Bruno's shadow too long and at the end of his left jab for even longer. His epic fight with Lewis ended after seven rounds of pure savagery and in defeat Mason proved that he was world-class. He suffered an eye injury against Lewis and was forced to quit boxing.

The 'other' British Heavyweight Champions

*Frank Bruno preferred to challenge for the world title and never fought for the British heavyweight version – just like Naseem Hamed, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Amir Khan.

*David Haye, the deposed world champion, has not fought for the British heavyweight title yet but, having been called a "punk", a "coward" and a "bitch" by either Dereck Chisora or Tyson Fury, it is easy to imagine a fight against tonight's winner would be a big attraction.

The British Heavyweight Title – some facts

*Between 2000 and 2009 16 title fights took place.

*Twenty-nine men have held the British heavyweight title since 1950.

*Since 1950 there have been 14 years when a British heavyweight championship fight failed to take place.

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