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Derek Chisora beats Kubrat Pulev by split decision as brutal bout goes the distance

The Briton triumphed in London to avenge his own split-decision loss to the Bulgarian from 2016

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Sunday 10 July 2022 00:22 BST
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Derek Chisora (left) was a 112-116, 116-112, 116-114 winner against Kubrat Pulev
Derek Chisora (left) was a 112-116, 116-112, 116-114 winner against Kubrat Pulev (Getty Images)

As Saturday’s main event at the O2 Arena somehow exceeded expectations, Derek Chisora somehow defied the doubters against Kubrat Pulev.

Taglines for boxing bouts are often contrived and usually superfluous, but for this rematch six years in the making, ‘Total Carnage’ proved fitting. If anything, those in attendance in London probably anticipated a few rounds of total carnage and then a sad, brutal ending to the night and potentially the career of either of these aging heavyweights. But Chisora, 38, and Pulev, 41, raged against the dying of the pugilistic light with stubborn jabs, weltering hooks and ominous overhands as around 7,000 watched on.

After 12 rounds that flowed from one to the next on a cocktail tide of blood and sweat, it was Chisora’s swollen hand that was raised by the referee. The judges’ scorecards read 116-112 to Pulev, 116-112 to Chisora, and 116-114 to the victorious Briton – six years after he had suffered his own split-decision loss to the Bulgarian in Hamburg.

For Chisora, the result and the performance that barely secured it will serve as vindication of his decision to fight on. Fans were wincing during this hellacious contest – though that word seems almost too ‘professional sports’ for a match this gladiatorial – and they will have likely had the same reaction when Chisora called for a clash with Deontay Wilder during his post-fight interview. Chisora said this week that the product he sells is “War”, but his feelings towards retirement suggest that the veteran has become a prisoner of it over time.

Saturday evening might have marked the night for Chisora to escape this sport at long last, regardless of the result, but he remains chained to his gloves.

Chisora’s children saw him fight in person for the first time (Getty Images)

Those gloves coated his trusty weapons at the O2 Arena, where the pressure was on Chisora after three straight decision defeats ahead of this rematch with a man whose only previous losses had come against world champions Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua.

Chisora employed animated head movement in the opening round, evading Pulev’s jabs and getting in close, where he would burrow spiteful hooks into the body of the Bulgarian. Pulev’s torso was soon a vibrant red, but the tourist established his jab more effectively over the following few rounds, preferring to fight at range while Chisora tried to close distance. As the fight crossed its halfway mark, Pulev was pushing back Chisora and seemingly starting to pull clear, putting together combinations with the crowd favourite stuck on the ropes.

It was in Round 7 that the tide began to turn, however, while simultaneously turning a crimson red. For Chisora had cut Pulev above the Bulgarian’s left eye, and the wound began to open up severely in the seventh frame, blood impairing Pulev’s vision and allowing Chisora to hammer him with the kind of overhand rights that had not quite connected up until that point.

Impressive and vital work from Pulev’s cutman prevented the blood from spilling down the Bulgarian’s face as it had in Round 7, and the 41-year-old reaped the benefits in the eighth round; Pulev increased his output and began to break down Chisora. The Briton rallied late in the round, however, and in the ninth round he nearly spun Pulev around with a winging hook. Pulev tried to box his way out of a troubling moment, but again Chisora hurt him with a heavy shot.

Pulev sustained two severe cuts during the fight (Getty Images)

In Round 10, Chisora opened up another cut – this one on the other side of Pulev’s face – and again his opponent’s vision was impaired as blood streamed down. The visitor again tried to stay disciplined in his approach, while Chisora favoured haymakers and began to land them with increasing success. Pulev connected with a right hand after the bell at the end of the round, and Chisora responded in kind, with the referee seemingly content that the fouls had cancelled one another out.

Round 11 arrived and Pulev remarkably seemed to be undeterred by the bleeding around his eyes. He slung straight shots at Chisora, the Briton begining to fade and starting to rely on his heart as his lungs let him down. There was time for one last crucial rally from Chisora, though, “Del Boy” getting after Pulev straight away and propelling hooks into the midriff of the battered Bulgarian.

Chisora’s brave showing was, apparently, enough. As his young children watched on – seeing their father fight in person for the first time – Chisora’s hand was raised and the victory was declared his. Pulev seemed accepting of the result.

Chisora and Pulev ensured their rematch lived up to the ‘Total Carnage’ tagline (Getty Images)

“I think I last won a fight three years ago,” Chisora said, exhausted but relieved. “It’s been... listen... It was hard. Pulev’s a great fighter. I’m happy today. At the same time, I’m sad. I don’t have many left in me, but what I have, I’m gonna give it all to you guys. I don’t want easy fights. I told Eddie [Hearn, promoter] the other day, if you can get me the ‘Bronze Bomber’ [Deontay Wilder], I’ll be happy.”

Wilder may be an enticing prospect for Chisora. That fight is a frightening prospect for fans.

Chisora defied doubters on Saturday, but in choosing to continue his career, the Briton might have missed his chance for a happy ending.

This victory over Pulev was revenge and it was relief, but the reality is there will be no rest for Chisora. Not yet.

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