By Johnny Walker
We’ve been told over and over again in the past few years by many (often extremely biased) pundits that the current heavyweight division is “boring.” In fact, I’m bored to tears with this charge, far more than I am bored by any of the action that is taking place in the heavyweight division.
In the heavyweight division, like any other division in boxing, there are exciting fights and some bummers thrown in for good measure. Just recently, for instance, we witnessed a very hard-fought dust-up between Bermane Stiverne and Cristobal Arrreola that put the division in a good light. It’s not like there are never any exciting fights happening. But it’s easier to whine than to look at the reality of the situation.
The real reason for the “boring” charge seems to be the fact that the men at the top of the division, brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, are heads and tails above the rest of the crop. I won’t go into the reasons for this again here, but you probably can guess why this bothers a good many American boxing commenters, both professional and amateur. Were the brothers American, we can pretty accurately surmise that this constant criticism of them would instead be muted at the very least.
At any rate, the real subject of this piece, Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora of the UK, is certainly not a heavyweight that any fair-minded person can label “boring.” Over the last few years, he has done his best to enliven a divsion with antics that you just aren’t going to get from two well-educated and well-adjusted brothers from Kiev. Del Boy seems to lack much of a superego, that part of the psyche that tells you not to do things that might get you into trouble. And that makes for a lot of fun for us watching on the sidelines.
Chisora, who had bitten and kissed previous opponents (he tried the latter with a bemused Robert Helenius, who slipped away), really peaked in terms of bad boy behavior in 2012. Chisora had reason to be pissed off at the Klitschko brothers, since Wlad had twice stiffed him on a proposed fight due to a stomach injury that was so bad that the champion was out playing golf in Florida a few days after the initial cancellation. Chisora claimed he received no financial remuneration from the champion for two useless training camps, while Wlad then went on to make a mint after cancelling on Chisora a second time and signing on to fight (and easily beat) Chisora’s countryman David Haye.
So Del Boy was carrying around a mighty grudge when he finally got a fight with the other Klitschko brother, Vitali. He played it cool until the final presser, when out of the blue, he slapped the elder and badder of the brothers hard across the face, stunning the WBC champ. Then, in the ring immediately before the fight, he spit a stream of water in Wladimir’s face, incensed because of some pre-fight shennanigans from Wlad in the dressing room regarding the wrapping of his hands.
After pushing Vitali hard in an entertaining loss, Chisora carried on in the post-fight presser, where he made the phrase “He glassed me” a new boxing touchstone. He engaged first verbally then physically with a mouthy David Haye, who was shouting questions from the crowd. In the melee, Haye’s trainer Adam Booth ended up staggering around while bleeding profusely and taking death threats from Chisora regarding his charge, who had already fled the scene, fearing for his life, he later said.
As expected, Chisora and Haye, even though neither had a current UK license, found a way to get together in London for a grudge match that lived up to its billing and was one of the most exciting boxing events, heavyweight or not, in the entire year of 2012. The always game Del Boy went for it against Haye, and rattled him hard a couple of times before being stopped in the fifth round.
This weekend, the never-boring Chisora (16-4, 10 KOs) returns to the big stage at Wembley Arena in the UK against an American whom, if anyone is going to be called boring, actually richly deserves that tag: Malik Scott (35-0-1, 12 KOs). While people may complain about Wladimir Klitschko being a “safety first” fighter, Scott’s style makes Wlad’s most reticent performance look like Mike Tyson at his most feral. To call Scott, who does possess good boxing skills, a “negative” fighter is to understate the case.
Scott is the kind of fighter who causes judging nightmares, the kind of fighter that most like to avoid if possible. How much can you reward a boxer who never presses the action, who skillfully glides around the edges of the ring trying to avoid direct engagement? The scores in Scott’s last, supposedly disputed fight against Vyacheslav “Czar” Glazkov of Ukraine, say it all: one 95-95 score from Julie Lederman, one judge with a 98-92 tally for Scott, while another judge seeing it the way this writer did, with a 96-94 score for the more offensive-minded Glazkov.
Anyone, then, who favors “excitement” in the heavyweight division, both in and out of the ring, should be rooting for Del Boy in this fight. The offensive-minded Chisora will no doubt push the action while Scott engages in his usual deft, counter-punching evasions along the ropes. And we need to give Chisora credit: in an age when many rightly complain of too many fighters ducking the tough fights while trying to preserve their precious records, Del Boy Chisora doesn’t give a damn. He’ll fight anybody. He was robbed against Robert Helenius, went in depressed and overweight but still competed against Tyson Fury, and pushed Vitali Klitschko harder than anyone had in years in that loss.
This time, Del Boy is taking on a pariah in the heavyweight division, and an unbeaten pariah at that. A man who literally nobody wants to fight. But he doesn’t mind. For all his supposed faults, Dereck Chisora has the heart of a fighter. And if anyone can make a Malik Scott fight entertaining, I trust it is Del Boy. I for one wish him well.