It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. When Monday’s London press conference to announce the junior welterweight World Boxing Super Series final was hijacked by co-main event fighter Dereck Chisora, an aura of inevitability filled the room. It’s become part of the package with the Finchley fighter, who now, enjoying the Indian Summer of a hard-fought career, is looking to cash in on a carefully crafted adoration amongst British followers.
Upon taking his seat at the top table, the British heavyweight was visibly miffed; this time, the 35-year-old didn’t need a dance partner to light the short fuse igniting the “War” in his recently revamped nickname. Joseph Parker was absent from proceedings — not a problem. Dereck, in Dereck’s mind, is always main event. A proud Londoner on a show in the capital where he has lived since he was 16, seeing Josh Taylor — a proud Scot — and Regis Prograis — an American who has never fought outside the States — plastered all over the billboard behind him proved a tricky pill to swallow.
Dereck Chisora’s heavyweight showdown with Joseph Parker on Oct. 26 is playing second fiddle to the World Boxing Super Series final, and Chisora was going to let his feelings known.
“Who’s the main event of this fight? That’s not gonna work for me. I’m not going to sell out O2 for them guys to be the main event,” Del Boy began, with the press conference following a predictable pattern until then.
“These guys wouldn’t sell box office by themselves, so fuck that. So either you give me main event or pull me out of the fucking show,” he continued.
A bold statement. A unification for two 140-pound marbles, the Ring Magazine belt and the Muhammad Ali Trophy would have done good numbers across the UK without Chisora, but only with the hardcore fanbase. Tapping into the casual market is the prime objective of adding a character like Chisora to the October bill inside London’s O2 Arena.
“Fucking Muhammad Ali Trophy? Nobody gives a fuck about it no more. No one gives a fuck about little guys anymore. Boxing right now is thriving on the heavyweights,” he went on, with Kalle Sauerland stewing just a few seats along.
From Adam Smith to Eddie Hearn and from the undercard fighters to the surrounding journalists, nobody knew quite how to react. Nervous grins plastered across the faces of the Matchroom, Sky and World Boxing Super Series hierarchy were visibly forced, as the anxiety levels crept up to double figures.
In an attempt to fight his corner, Chisora — under the previously diligent management of David Haye — had managed to turn a fairly mundane press conference into a viral hit, whilst simultaneously shitting on two of the best 140-pounders on the planet.
Prograis — seemingly unaware of Chisora’s reputation — took the bait. “We’re No. 1 and No. 2,” the IBF champion boasted, in an attempt to quell the storm.
“You know what he’s doing, don’t you? He’s selling pay-per-views. That’s what he does,” Eddie Hearn bellowed to his co-promotor Kalle Sauerland as the presser came to a close, seemingly unaware that the microphones were still on.
This was just the latest chapter in the story of one of British boxing’s most polarizing characters. Ever since making his professional debut in 2007, Chisora has continued to push the boundaries of the boxing world, winning and losing fans in equal measure along the way.
Biting Paul Butlin in a 2009 clash got the Chisora-ball rolling. A nibble on the neck in their rematch at York Hall went unpunished, seeing Chisora waltz towards a 10-0 record with a points victory. Two fights later in a British heavyweight title eliminator, a nibble turned into a snog, as Del Boy planted a kiss on Carl Baker at their face-off following a heated weigh-in. A lighter moment in the career of Chisora controversies, perhaps, but you try telling Baker that at the time.
2012 was when things ramped up. Vitali Klitschko was defending his WBC heavyweight crown against Chisora, with the challenger coming off the back of a loss to Robert Helenius just three months prior. A slap on the Ukrainian’s face at the weigh-in was followed by a spit in the face before the first bell rang, with the Briton failing to cover himself in glory in Munich. Despite his antics, Chisora stuck in well with Klitschko throughout the unanimous decision loss, his third as a professional.
After the Klitschko fight, David Haye — now Chisora’s manager — chose the press conference as the opportune moment to build their next fight. Heckling Chisora from the audience, all hell broke loose as Chisora charged at Haye with a brawl breaking out. Haye allegedly glassed Chisora in the melee, with the two signing to fight that following summer.
One of his most recent incidents came in the badly-tempered run-up to a British grudge match with Dillian Whyte. With the two going at it in the press conference for their first fight, Chisora picked up the top table and launched it in the air in the direction of the “Body Snatcher.” It kicked off between the two camps with fears circulating that the bout would be pulled. Luckily, it wasn’t. Unexpectedly, Whyte and Chisora put on one of the best heavyweight scraps of 2016, with Whyte nicking a split decision.
You could argue that it was 2016 where the tables weren’t only flipped but were turned for Chisora. Brits love an underdog, and with Chisora’s record facilitating him to continue getting opportunities after losses, the 35-year-old is thriving in his role as a heavyweight favourite. Joshua is tied up and Dillian Whyte is, well, we don’t know. The path has cleared for Chisora to reap the rewards — and the paydays — as his career edges to a close.
I guess you can understand Chisora’s reaction in the press conference earlier this week. He’s a huge commodity for Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing in the UK, with his fights offering the backbone that keeps a lot of his pay-per-view shows standing. I believe that his reaction was a mixture of genuine discontent, mixed with a hunger to once again use his tools to sell as many tickets as he can.
Harvesting this cult following puts Chisora in a unique position in British boxing. Win or lose, we’ll continue to go to ‘“War” for as long as Chisora allows.