For those who see boxing as a noble sport, a gentleman's game, or even just something with dignity attached, Saturday's clash between the classless David Haye and the arguably even more classless Dereck Chisora at Upton Park in West Ham, London, is a stomach-turning exhibition.
For those who think boxing is full of crap and pretty much always has been, it's just another absurdity in a long line of them dating back over a century.
For others, Haye vs Chisora is, well, just a fight. One with a grudge angle, one that was made through moronic and ugly means, and one that matters because it's a hot ticket and probably the most controversial fight we've seen in some time, at least before a bell has even sounded.
Personally, I am part of the latter camp, but fully understand the folks who reject this fight on principle. Haye (25-2, 23 KO) and Chisora (15-3, 9 KO) are here in part because they can't do much else. Neither man is currently licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control, instead getting farcical licenses from the totally irrelevant Luxembourg Boxing Federation, staging the fight on British soil because they can. If they couldn't, believe me, the offended parties would have put a stop to this. I kind of hate to, but have to agree with Frank Warren on this matter: It's not loopholes, this is just the way the rules are.
Haye vs Chisora - Full Coverage
VIDEO: Final Press Conference / Beyond the Ropes Episodes 1 & 2
Haye Promises First Round KO, Chisora Hypes 'Freak Show'
Haye: I'll Make Corner Stop It / Haye Dedicates Fight to Beaten Women
Chisora: His Style Is Rubbish
What is it about a fight like Haye vs Chisora that attracts someone like me? Personally, I don't mind trash talking. I love a grudge match. And I'd just rather see a couple of guys who don't like each other go about trying to knock the other man's block off than another Klitschko fight full of cordial respect and robotic professionalism. I don't even mind the fact that neither guy is worth rooting for. The world is full of villains, and boxing is no different. Villains historically make the turnstiles churn in boxing, and with the amount of tickets sold and what has been reported as an overwhelming level of media interest in the UK for this fight, clearly, this fight is a seller.
Obviously, there is something unsavory about this. It's a fight happening because two loudmouth goons needed to make a spectacle in Munich in February, engaging in a press conference brawl after Chisora lost a fairly competitive fight to Vitali Klitschko.
Chisora was promptly stripped of his license by the BBBofC, and Haye's had lapsed last year. The British board didn't ban Chisora, though, and with dollar signs swimming in the air, Frank Warren made his move, signing the fighters for a July 14 bout. The British officials bitched and complained and made threats, but in the end have done pretty much nothing, because there's not much they can do. The European Boxing Union threatened to take measures against the Luxembourg Federation, and maybe they still will, but does it really matter? This is the only time in recent history that the organization has really done much of anything notable, and it could well be the last time they matter, too.
So here we are. We've got a fight, no matter if BoxRec will recognize it or not, a move that I can't quite figure out other than to guess the site's operators don't want to incur the wrath of the BBBofC, so they're ignoring a legitimate fight that is legal and sanctioned and absolutely is happening for real.
It's a fight I'm excited to see, but really just another fight. The atmosphere will be special, I'm certain of that, and there's bad blood here. But just another fight of many, and when it's over and done with, unless something truly insane happens, it will be a fight that happened, little more and little less.
But I am intrigued, and in part, it's because of the personalities. Actually, I should say that it's mostly the personalities. Haye, 31, "retired" last year after his loss to Wladimir Klitschko, which he blamed on an injured big toe. In all seriousness, the big toe injury was legitimate, and it was something that definitely could hamper a fighter in a major way. But the way Haye went about it irked people. He gave Wladimir credit, but he made such an issue of his toe that he couldn't help but turn everyone against him even more.
It turns out his bogus retirement is just a year-long break from boxing, nothing particularly unusual these days. Haye promised a retirement by age 30, didn't do it, and then promised it by age 31, and made half a show of doing it, but hasn't. He says he's looking at this as a one-off "return," though a return would mean he was ever really gone, which he wasn't, and a win will mean a money fight available after this, perhaps against Vitali Klitschko.
Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Chisora, 28, is in his own world most of the time. While the grudge match aspect is real, I believe, I also have the feeling that Haye truly dislikes Chisora, but that Chisora isn't truly capable of such emotion. Chisora has moments of humor, but he always seemed sort of distantly removed from interviews and press conference appearances, at least until he's blowing his top about something or other.
The Zimbabwean-born Londoner has had repeated offenses in and outside of the ring -- if Haye is a villain, he at least generally confines it to boxing. Chisora is another story. He's a bad guy, and he's a bit of a powder keg. Haye is weird, but Chisora is out there.
Neither man is particularly likeable. But they are both kind of fascinating, at least in my eyes. Of all the fighters in the sport today, Chisora may carry the biggest aura of true danger. He seems to do things either without thinking, or because he thought about them too much. When he slapped Vitali in the face in February, his own reaction was more interesting than Vitali's steely-eyed glare. You could see anger bubbling in Vitali, but he had the control and the class to check himself and get revenge when he was paid to fight. Chisora reacted almost as if he'd shocked himself by doing it. Either he did it on the spur of the moment, or he'd thought about it for weeks and still managed to surprise himself by actually going through with the smack.
The next night, when he spat water in Wladimir's face before the fight, it felt almost phony. Not staged, but as if Chisora did it entirely because he was expected to do something crazy. Wladimir, like his brother, wanted to react but didn't, really.
It was when Chisora jumped into a David Haye-Bernd Boente argument at the post-fight press conference that he'd met his match. He talked trash at Haye, who volleyed some back. When Chisora left the stage to confront Haye, I don't know what he was expecting. As soon as he got close enough, Haye elbowed him in the face. I get the feeling that was not what Chisora had in mind.
David Haye is not a Klitschko brother. Chisora found someone that wouldn't back down, or wouldn't basically turn the other cheek as the Klitschkos had, but a fellow nutter who would fight him in a ballroom.
For those who think this fight is a trainwreck, none of what I'm saying will change their minds. It is exactly what they say it is: Two reality TV-level heels duking it out. To some, it will be appealing because of what it is. To others, revolting.
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Haye, if he has not lost a lot in his year out, which is unlikely, will have some major advantages. He is much faster than Chisora, both of hand and foot. He moves around the ring very well when his toe isn't an issue, and has the ability to put punches together in combination better than anyone in the heavyweight division.
Ability has never been Haye's issue. When Haye has struggled, it's been about execution. Though he can put punches together, too often he's content to throw single shots and wait, wait, wait around for his opponents to make moves. He's a solid counter puncher, because his speed is so special for a modern heavyweight, but all too often, David Haye's in-ring performances in the division have seemed lacking.
One fight where that was not the case was his destructive win over John Ruiz in 2010. Ruiz, who would retire after the fight, came to bring the battle to Haye, feeling that the light, lean former cruiserweight champion might not deal well with pressure from a legitimate heavyweight. That turned out to be a good idea on paper, but in practice, just served to get Ruiz eaten alive.
Haye was rather brilliant in that fight, moving backward constantly and picking the slower, bigger man apart with hard shots. The veteran American gave his absolute best effort, but Haye was just too good. He used Ruiz's aggression against him, flooring him twice in the opening round, and laying down a beating until the fight was stopped in the ninth.
Chisora loves to come forward. His style has been compared to Joe Frazier, and while Chisora is 20,000 leagues under Frazier's sea level, that is pretty clearly his inspiration. He's a bully fighter, and frankly, just a bully in general. He tries to intimidate opponents. We've seen that work, as it did in December against Robert Helenius, where Chisora was robbed of a win in Finland, and in his last notable actual victory, against Sam Sexton in September 2010.
Chisora can rumble. He was outclassed by Vitali, but he was also there, right in Vitali's face for the full 12 rounds. He made the big man work for his win. And he did lose pretty badly to Tyson Fury last year, but Chisora was legitimately and grossly out of shape for that fight. That's not an excuse, since that was his own fault, but it wasn't the "real" Chisora in the ring that night. I wonder how many would pick Fury to repeat if they were to rematch.
Chisora can win this fight. For one thing, he's been in the ring four times since Haye last fought, and he does appear to be in very good shape heading into this fight. We know he can go 12 and go at a tough pace. He did that with Helenius and with Klitschko. With this fight set for 10 rounds, he should have no problems with stamina or anything like that.
He also stood up to punches from both of those guys, and they both can crack. Haye is a puncher, too, but a different brand. Haye's power comes from his speed and his timing. Helenius is a pretty straightforward guy. Vitali is honestly pretty immobile at this point, and as hard as he hits, he really loads up on arm punches a lot of the time.
Haye can drive home his punches better than either of those guys when he's on his game. It's not to say he's a harder puncher than Vitali or Helenius, who get a lot of leverage punching down at guys, but the way he attacks is much different than they way they attack. Chisora survived big guys with blunt force punches. Haye is a quick, light fighter who stings more than he thuds.
That said, I don't know that Haye is going to like the pressure Chisora brings. "Del Boy" is a legitimately fearless fighter between the ropes. He comes right at guys, and there's no mystery about what he does. I'm sure Adam Booth has prepared a good fight plan, and I've got no real concern that Haye can't execute it. I do wonder if David is ready for the sturdy Chisora to be in his grill for a half hour, though.
It seems like most are picking David Haye, and believe he'll stop Chisora. I think this is a close fight and it's going to come down to styles. I believe David Haye has the skills and the tool set to really blast Chisora out of there. I also believe Chisora has the gritty nerve to bully Haye, to get into his head and take him out of the fight.
Tactically, I think the fight is extremely interesting. Take away all the bullshit and the nonsense, and I think you've just got a good fight here, one that could go either way. I've always been a David Haye fan, but I've also seen him enough to know he has his limitations, like anyone does. Chisora has his, too.
I've gone back and forth this one. When I picture the fight in my mind's eye, I sometimes see Haye slashing away, slicing and dicing his way to an emphatic "comeback" win. And I sometimes see Chisora grinding Haye down and sending him back to his corner increasingly discouraged, round by round, knowing that he's putting in great effort but can't get the big galoot to back down or go away.
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
I'm going with David Haye by decision -- I think he'll edge it out on points, but I do not think he's going to have an easy fight on his hands. I expect this to be a fight where in some rounds, particularly early, Haye looks fantastic, and looks to be a level above Chisora. But you're going to see Chisora take his lumps and refuse to stop coming forward. This will eventually wear Haye down to the point that the fight keeps getting closer and closer. Chisora will have an argument in the end, but Haye will get the nod, perhaps on split or majority cards. If anyone hits the canvas, I suspect it will be Chisora.
I'm expecting a war of attrition by the time the eighth round starts. Chisora is going to take hard shots, and he's going to press on, testing Haye's gas tank. If Haye punches himself out trying to get Chisora out of there, and isn't able to finish him, it could get very, very interesting.
A lot of this depends on how David Haye fights here. He might come aggressively and try to make a statement. He might also try to lay back and let Chisora beat himself. And both strategies could work. But I think he'll be better off attacking, actually. Chisora is too aggressive to simply lay back against, because eventually he's going to walk you into a corner and start throwing bombs, and that's exactly what Haye does not need. Haye needs to stay active and pick his spots. If he can do that, I think he's just the better fighter, and will come back victorious on Saturday.