Usyk vs Chisora: Derek Chisora’s lonely ring-walk for his sole world championship fight came amid deafening boos and merciless heckling, a stranger in a strange land.
This was the Klitschko cauldron, where sacrificial lambs were sent for slaughter by the mighty siblings. It was perfect schadenfreude for the German crowd to rain abuse down at whoever challenged a Klitschko, in this case a Londoner called ‘Del Boy’.
Eight years after an antagonistic and chaotic Chisora fell short in a WBC heavyweight title fight against Vitali Klitschko, he will face another Ukrainian maestro in Oleksandr Usyk with an older, wiser – if still as chaotic – outlook. But make no mistake, it will be Chisora’s last chance to truly crack the big-time.
Klitschko vs Chisora in Munich in 2012 is really remembered for one thing – the post-fight press conference. David Haye caused a fuss, Chisora lost his cool, punches and camera tripods were thrown, blood was spilled, a jaw was broken, the police were called, and a future rivalry was built. Haye is today Chisora’s manager in one of boxing’s maddest odd couples but, back then, he was ringside gunning for a fight with Vitali.
The Chisora that challenged Vitali was a very different beast to the one who will face Usyk, scheduled “Usyk vs Chisora” for May 23 live on Sky Sports Box Office. He was 28 and full of angst and had already lost twice, to Tyson Fury and Robert Helenius. He was given little chance of bringing a belt back to Britain.
He did succeed, however, in infuriating both Klitschko brothers by refusing to abide by their respectful code.
“Everybody is tired of you and your brother, because you do not bring excitement to the game,” Chisora told Vitali in the days prior to their fight.
The weigh-in turned nasty when Chisora slapped the long-reigning champion. Even Chisora’s trainer Don Charles called that “unacceptable”.
“I thought it was hilarious,” Haye mischievously admitted. “But I wondered what his fines would be? Then I ended up rolling around on the floor with him!”
Chisora’s mind-games and determination to unsettle the Klitschko brothers continued into the minutes before the first punch. A row about his hand-wraps delayed the bout by 20 minutes and when the challenger emerged, a disrespectful lout where the fans preferred a dignified champion, he was loudly jeered.
Then he spat water into Wladimir’s face, who had no choice but not to respond to the sheer disrespect.
Chisora laughs at this, eight years later. Did he get under their skin? “By the looks of it, I did,” he told Sky Sports.
Vitali successfully defended his WBC title via unanimous decision but couldn’t put a significant dent in Chisora.
“Derek boxed really well,” Haye remembered. “He put the pressure on Vitali, who never hurt Derek.
“Derek forced the fight and did well. He lost, but it was a spirited effort that he got a lot of credit for.
“The Derek of today is fitter and more disciplined. At the time he was unruly, did whatever he wanted, but didn’t live the life of a consummate professional. He was just tough enough, slapping and spitting.”
An irony is that Chisora left the ring after fighting a Klitschko with far more credit than Haye did after being outpointed by Wladimir.
Did Haye ever imagine, from ringside in Germany, what the future would hold? “Never. I was so annoyed that I had a punch-up in front of the press. He started it. Why should I fight him? I didn’t want to give him the pay-day.”
Vitali fought just once more before retiring and it is a regret for Haye that he never had the chance to fight him.
“Vitali was willing to engage significantly more than Wladimir,” Haye told Sky Sports. “Wladimir knew his strengths and his weaknesses – he knew his weakness was taking too many clean shots from big heavyweights.
“Wladimir lost to Ross Purritty and Corrie Sanders, fighters that he was better than, because they caught him and made him tire. So he devised a style that was effective – he kept his power by not throwing too many shots. When someone got close, he leaned on them to use his superior physical attributes. He was effective and was fantastic at doing that.
“If Vitali fought Wladimir? Two different fighters. Vitali wanted a punch-up so I always would have preferred to fight him. Vitali suited my style more than Wladimir, who always kept his fights long. Vitali would have tried to knock me out which would have given me more chance to punch.
“Tyson Fury and Vitali Klitschko were the two fights that people wish I would have fought. The fights were made but didn’t come off.”
Ominously back in England, Vitali Klitschko vs Derek Chisora was being watched on TV by a young Oleksandr Usyk, who sat alongside kayakers and synchronised swimmers at the Olympic Village.
In a twist of fate that only heavyweight boxing could provide, Chisora is enjoying an autumn to his career after linking up with his old rival Haye but must next do damage to Ukraine’s current master.
“I was young and naïve,” Chisora said in a rare moment of serious reflection. “Now I’m mature which would give me a better chance.”
Topple Usyk and, at the age of 36, another chance at the world heavyweight championship would be within reach for Britain’s popular chaos merchant.