The general reaction was one of sympathy for Dereck Chisora when Wladimir Klitschko pulled out of last night's scheduled world heavyweight bout. This was the Briton's first shot at boxing immortality and, who knows, perhaps he will never get another. And all because of a torn abdominal muscle. The cruel fist of fate had just located his solar plexus.
But look at it another way. Look at it through the eyes of Miss Yalda Kontrachy, the ex-girlfriend of Chisora. Just imagine how she might feel today knowing she won't run the risk of turning on the news and seeing the 6ft 2in, 17st Chisora swinging those same hands which assaulted her a few months ago. Suddenly the sentiment changes. Pity becomes blessed relief.
But then the liberals will note that Chisora has been punished by the courts and therefore reason that last month's 12-week suspended sentence affords the 26-year-old every justification in continuing with his chosen line of work. A bricklayer would still be able to lay bricks, a plumber would still be able to mend pipes. So why shouldn't a professional boxer be able to box professionally?
The answer is that his victim could face further pain. Shouldn't that be the primary concern here and in the ongoing debate about the rehabilitation of sportsmen from serious crimes in the public eye?
You can talk about second chances, about responsibilities as role models, about the wisdom of sporting authorities drawing moral lines. But seemingly every point made in this multi-sided argument continues to ignore the rights of the innocent. Ask yourself which is more important: Chisora's right to fulfil a sporting dream; or Miss Kontrachy's right to move on with her life and not feel haunted by her attacker's image.
A similar question was posed a few months ago when Marlon King was released from prison. The strikereventually signed for Coventry City and last Saturday scored his first goal for the club. But there is still discomfort in some quarters – and downright anger in others – that a man who on Thursday lost his appeal against a sexual-assault conviction can returnto the biggest stages of British sport.
The worry is – or, at any rate, should be – how Emily Carr, the student King groped and then punched to the floor in a London bar, must feel when she watches her attacker being fêted as a hero by the media and fans.
Chisora's crime was not so bloody and this was reflected in his sentence. The promoter Frank Warren submitted a letter to court vouching for his character and up until his assault the narrative of his life suggested that boxing had – as it so often has – proved his salvation. But here's where the lines between what sets him apart as a sportsman and as a law-abiding citizen become blurred.
Chisora is paid to be aggressive, strong and intimidating. Perhaps it is easy for you to differentiate between the boxer and the abuser, but would it be so straightforward for Miss Kontrachy? We are talking about the tools of his trade, and there is an obvious danger in them being misused against vulnerable people. Indeed, this should be a central concern for a sport which supposedly walks a thin line with its reputation. As Richard Smith, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, put it: "We cannot have our licensed boxers hitting women."
Yet the board were never going to prevent the British and Commonwealth champion from climbing into that German ring last night. Apparently they couldn't step in after authorising the bout before the court case. Why not? If something as small as a torn stomach muscle is sufficient to stop a fight, then shouldn't a judge's verdict be thought big enough?
And if the BBBC had decided to act then we would have been spared the "cleared to fight" reports which appeared in the wake of the sentencing. Despite Chisora being found guilty, it was largely depicted as a positive verdict for him, because a custodial sentence would have meant him missing his date with Klitschko.
It was a rather sick but an all-too-inevitable slant for the news outlets; alas, that's how seriously sport is considered within the media nowadays. Miss Kontrachy's feelings were plainly of far less significance.
The word is that the BBBC will summon Chisora – who has a previous conviction for assaulting a police officer – to a meeting to enquire of his behaviour outside the ring, although the suspicion is that there will be a warning and no suspension. If that turns out to be true, then one might find it strange, seeing as just three months ago they stripped Ricky Hatton of his licence to box for taking drugs, calling it "wholly inappropriate conduct for a professional boxer". Really? As inappropriate as Chisora's conduct?
The very least the BBBC should have ensured was a more suitable time-span between the judgment and Chisora's involvement in such a high-profile bout. And no, four weeks doesn't qualify as suitable. Not nearly.Fortunately, the sensitivities were saved before the bell.
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