Steve Bunce on Boxing: Tyson Fury v Dereck Chisora II evokes great British heavyweight fights at Wembley – not Aston Villa Leisure Centre


During the last 50 years, 27 men have held the British heavyweight title, winning and losing in as many truly dreadful fights as there were memorable nights.

On 26 July in Manchester, the biggest British heavyweight title fight to take place in the last half-century will be between former champions Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora at the Phones 4U Arena. It is a real fight between two men who will each risk their safe world rankings at a time when a lot of lucrative world-title chances are about to be available; the loser drops a long way down a long list of challengers.

The British heavyweight championship is one of sport's enigmatic titles, with a rich and celebrated history that conveniently overlooks long periods of inactivity and many years without stability. Henry Cooper was untouchable for about 15 years but vacated the title in 1969 and during the next six years seven men, including Cooper, won and lost it without making one single defence.

It was not quite a curse but, with men in the smaller weights winning world titles at the big venues in London, the old heavyweight title certainly lost some of its allure.

In the Seventies the title, which Cooper invariably defended at the Empire Pool, Wembley, had started to become a transit tool for small promotions putting on relative unknowns as challengers; in 1975 it was fought for behind closed doors at a private sporting club inside Park Lane's Grosvenor Hotel.

On that night Bunny Johnson fulfilled a lifetime ambition and became the first black British heavyweight champion; but he was beaten on points in his first defence over 15 rounds by Richard Dunn, who would go on to fight Muhammad Ali for the world title. Johnson, incidentally, dropped down in weight, won the British light-heavyweight title and gained a degree of notoriety when he fought American James Scott behind bars in Rahway Prison, New Jersey, in the late Seventies. "Scott was not very civil," Johnson told me, "he refused to shake hands before the fight." Johnson lost on a cut eye after seven rounds.

The period of seemingly endless transition continued in the Eighties with Funso Banjo, Liverpool fighting legend Billy Aird and Jess Harding all failing to win the title in a variety of locations as remote and exotic as the Palace Lido on the Isle of Man, and as ordinary as the Aston Villa Leisure centre, still a destination that has yet to be discovered.

Gary Mason, a genuine world-class fighter, held the title in the Eighties as did Horace Notice, arguably the most overlooked champion in the last 50 years. But real class emerged in the Nineties with Herbie Hide, who is currently in prison, and former undisputed world champion Lennox Lewis, who beat Mason in a great fight of unbeaten boxers in 1991, which the Fury and Chisora rematch will be measured against.

The first time they met Chisora was carrying too much weight and Fury was a comfortable winner over the full 12-round distance. Chisora has lost nearly 30lb since then and has promised a quick stoppage while Fury is convinced it will be over in five rounds.

They are probably both wrong and something longer and far more dramatic is more likely. This is a real British heavyweight title fight, a fight that could travel back to the glory nights at Wembley.

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities