Tyson Fury has everything that he needs to become the next world heavyweight champion and tonight at the ExCel, in London’s Docklands, he has to avoid Dereck Chisora’s desire for revenge before he can move closer to the tarnished title.
The problem is that nothing in sport is as cruel as a final eliminator in the boxing business when the glory and the money could disappear in disaster and pain under the ring lights. Fury has everything but he needs this one win or he will end up with nothing.
In the other attraction, Chris Eubank Jnr has actually shown very little in his one-sided career so far, which has featured a few comical mismatches, yet he enters the ring as the favourite against British, Commonwealth and European middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in an old-fashioned grudge match.
The two championship fights are part of a massive night for British boxing that has sensibly been dubbed “Bad Blood”. The action will start at 4pm with a brief cameo from mercurial American heavyweight Eddie Chambers, followed by the gloriously named Romeo Casanova Valentino Romaeo, a sparkling kid of 19 who lived wild in the woods for a time, and will end just before midnight when Fury and Chisora conclude their feud in the ring.
There are six title fights squeezed in between the appearance of Chambers, who once lost to Wladimir Klitschko in a world-title fight, and the moment of truth when Chisora will start throwing punches to salvage a career, get his own back on Fury and secure a fight for the money and belts that are held by Klitschko. In 2011 Fury beat Chisora over 12 rounds in a fight that both camps sensibly dismissed in their reckoning of Saturday’s rematch.
Fury has been in virtual boxing hibernation since April last year when he travelled to New York and ruined the plans of leading contender Steve Cunningham in seven savage rounds in the basement at Madison Square Garden, which is one of boxing’s sacred bear pits. He then went through a tumultuous time of wasted plans, shattered hopes and cancelled fights.
Chisora, meanwhile, has been on a furious journey of his own, finding form, losing weight and looking better with each fight during what has been a waiting game of some uncertainty even by boxing’s increasingly unfair rules. Chisora’s patience has served him well and on Saturday he faces a Fury who crucially lacks ring sharpness, which for a big man can be costly during any early scary moments – and there are likely to be quite a few.
It is a brilliant match, a fight with enough intrigue, potential and talent to be plucked up and placed in any of British boxing’s so-called glorious decades. They are both large, modern athletes, equally blessed with the guts to accompany their bulk and on Saturday, somewhere near the midnight hour, the one with the best boxing mind should pull clear.
Chisora at 30, and after four defeats in 24 fights, is not quite a relic but he will be in danger of toppling wide of being considered a genuine contender if he loses. Fury can take a defeat and still remain in a few serious money fights – and at heavyweight nothing else matters. “I will give you a third try if you like,” Fury told Chisora at yesterday’s weigh-in, which was a homage to the big men of boxing history and took place at the Empire in London’s Leicester Square.
The Saunders and Eubank fight is weird because of the obvious difference in experience and the quality of boxers – many of them unbeaten – Saunders has so far bested. Eubank has arguably not lost a round (officially he has dropped three rounds so far) in 18 fights but he has been matched with men who mostly arrived in the opposite corner without even the pretence of competition; they came for slaughter and the final 10 were all blasted out easily and dropped a total of 20 times. This fight, however, is not about credibility and if it was then it would not be taking place.
Eubank has been created away from prying eyes and criticism in filthy gyms, high-profile gyms and secret gyms, where the best are tested without shame or publicity. He has shared the sparring ring with the sport’s finest. However, it is a gamble, matching Saunders’ real experience with quality gym sessions, which could go terribly wrong. The much smaller competition gloves, lack of full-face protector and intensity of 18,000 fans howling for blood are factors that no sparring session can recreate.
However, Saunders has never fought against such an emotional backdrop and both boxers will need to listen to the calming voices of the revered veterans they both have in their corners. The two true fighting men in the corners, by the way, have stared at each other across a blood-stained canvas and through the ankles of dancing fighters a few times before. In 1991 Ronnie Davies sent Eubank Snr out for the last round of Michael Watson’s career and Jimmy Tibbs, in the opposite corner, watched as his fighter and friend Watson walked to the centre of the ring.
To add to the extraordinary nature of the strange fight, which has possibly become the main attraction, the pair both believe that it will be their easiest fight and that, trust me, is rare in a title contest like this. The Eubanks have spoken boldly of it ending in round one and Saunders thinks that he can go 12 rounds without getting hit with a single clean punch. Boxing at this level is never that simple. Just ask Fury and Chisora.
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