There is still a place for Derek Del Boy Chisora In the British house of heavyweight boxing. The big lad is not finished just yet.
Late on Saturday night, at a transformed Wembley SSE Arena, Chisora lost a decision over twelve rounds to Oleksandr Usyk. The fight was an eliminator for the right to fight Anthony Joshua and it was also meant to be the launch of Usyk as a heavyweight and Chisora’s last dance. Joshua was ringside in the latest boxing bubble, standing, throwing punches, ducking punches and trying to help Chisora, an old, old friend of his, win.
In the mock outrage at the outcome, it seems that Usyk’s arrival and Chisora’s departure might both be delayed. If this fight had been at the O2 in front of 18,000 fanatical Chisora worshippers, which was the plan before the lockdown, there is a very real threat that it would be considered a harsh decision. The angry howling of a mob often lingers longer in the memory than a dozen rounds of educated self-defence and masterful accuracy. Never forget that crazy swings, which miss by six inches, look like the greatest punch ever thrown from a seat 150 feet away - a live crowd would, I have no doubt, have voted unanimously for Chisora on Saturday night.
After the fight and as midnight approached, there was a growing sense that Chisora deserved more from the pens of the three judges. However, the arguments in favour of a draw or a Chisora win are misleading and that is because winning fights on guts has never been a scoring requirement. Losing fights on guts is, however, part of why Del Boy is so adored in my industry. And, the final results have nothing to do with “it depends what you like in a fight - aggression or boxing skills”, which is a stupid convenience used by losing fighters, their fans and their handlers whenever their brand of fighting fails to persuade the judges.
Chisora lost the fight fair and square, his bravery and heart never in doubt as he was picked off, made to miss dozens of times and staggered badly at the end of round seven. Chisora never stopped trying to come forward, but after about round three he fought like a man on a heroic losing mission, a man aware that he would be judged at the final bell on his willingness and ability to take punishment. He succeeded, we still love him and there is certainly no need for him to pull the slippers on just yet.
Chisora did have a perfect start, the start he promised and the start that David Haye, now his manager but once his enemy and opponent, predicted. Haye was furious at the final verdict, genuinely outraged and that type of blinkered conviction can be contagious - it can also be dangerous. A second watch, in a darkened room with a camomile tea, will probably reveal the painful details of Del Boy’s lost cause.
Usyk was caught and pushed back and shocked by Chisora’s opening pace in rounds one and two. It was the ideal start, the way for Chisora to use his years in big, big heavyweight fights, and his three-stone weights advantage, to make an immediate impression on the Ukrainian, a man being grandly pushed as the future of the heavyweight division. Usyk stumbled, moved, ran, turned away, smiled and was relieved to hear the bell to end the first round; at that point, after one completed round, Chisora’s chance had gone. It might sound harsh, but it is true because the element of surprise was removed from the fight. The speedy opening gambit was gone, Usyk knew then exactly what he had to do, he knew the threat level. Usyk might never be a great heavyweight, but he will always be a great thinker in the ring.
Once Usyk had his feet and hands working together, once he had measured the wild arcs of Chisora’s looping shots, he slowly transformed the fight. It was not a beating, but it was not close, not even remotely. Chisora was made to miss, touched with punches, caught with counters and hit with enough power to leave his face swollen at the very end. In round seven he was badly hurt, which he denies, just before the bell sounded and he stumbled as his inexperienced corner team sat him down. It was a worrying moment, dismissed at the end.
Chisora stopped throwing body shots after round three, seldom led with a jab and simply tried to repeat the success of the first round. A brief reprieve in rounds ten and eleven only added to the discontent when the verdict was read - Chisora still lost the rounds, but he did better in rounds ten and eleven than he had done in rounds three through nine. It is a delusional way to score a fight, a system based on improvement and not control; Usyk had to concentrate and work hard, but he had control.
There is a big, bold argument that Usyk won ten of the twelve rounds and an even stronger argument that Del Boy, without the emotion of attachment, lost ten of the twelve rounds. Eddie Hearn, the promoter, sat with Haye and thought it was real tight, but he admitted that he would sit down in silence and watch it again. It is a sensible, emotion-free plan and he will see a different fight.
The scores were 117-112 and 115-113 twice in Usyk’s favour. He is now a heavyweight after unifying all the belts at cruiserweight. Del Boy will go away, keep the momentum going for a rematch and then find another heavyweight mask for when he returns. He will be welcomed back and people will talk about the night he was robbed in his fight with Usyk.
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