By John Hargate
David Haye vs. Dereck Chisora came about as a result of the fighters’ antics outside the ring, as opposed to their performances inside it. When it was first announced, I, like many hardcore fans, wrote it off as a mismatch – a joke fight for the general public with which to make a pound note for the fighters and for the promoter, rather than a serious and intriguing spectacle for the boxing fan.
Yesterday, however, I had a bit of an epiphany. First, I rewatched Michael Moorer vs. Smokin’ Bert Cooper. Moorer was obviously a southpaw, but other than that there are quite a few similarities between that fight and this one.
Moorer was a big puncher with a deadly back hand; he liked to fight at medium to long range, initiating opportunities to counter rather than waiting for them; he couldn’t really fight on the inside all that well; and he always had a fragile look to him.
Cooper, for his part, didn’t have the best record but was always capable of pulling off an upset. He wasn’t a huge hitter, rather relying on volume punching and excellent head and upper body movement to swarm his opponent, drive them to the ropes and unload with hooks.
It was a great fight and it made me realise that this one does have the potential to explode. Haye is no Michael Moorer, but then Chisora is no Bert Cooper!
To complete my about swing from apathy to intrigue, I spoke to both Don Charles and Adam Booth, Chisora's and Haye’s trainers respectively. They each added an extra element to the fight that helped to pique my interest.
In terms of preparation for this fight, both trainers have markedly different core philosophies. Booth believes in adapting his fighter’s training to counter their opponent’s style. “If you’re fighting a guy who’s 6’7” or 7’2”, of course you’re going to train differently with a guy who rolls under shots and tries to get low on you,” explained Booth.
“So you have to adjust what you do. David has the ability to adjust and he’s going to surprise people. All of a sudden everyone thinks he’s a back-foot fighter, because of the way he fought a 6’7” Wlad, and a 7’2” Valuev. Our way to deal with big guys isn’t to chase them – it’s to make them come to you. Big guys are used to guys chasing them. This fight is a whole different kettle of fish.”
Don Charles takes a different approach. “What my beliefs are is not down to ignorance – we recognise and acknowledge what David Haye possesses – but the trick to win in any game, whether it’s a football match or tennis, is for you to make your opponent dance to your tune. The opponent must play how you want to play – not you play how they want to play. That is the trick.
“We focus on what we do. Let Haye try and adjust to what we’re going to do to him. He’s going to find it very difficult to do so. I’ll put it in simple terms: We’re going to have David Haye on remote control.”
The fight’s promoter Frank Warren has said that, in his view, Helenius and Vitali Klitschko both hit as hard – if not harder – than Haye. Booth ridiculed such comparisons. “Robert Helenius is not heavy handed and Vitali is shot, he’s an old man,” said Booth. “That’s been proved, look at the speed he’s got left.
“The way David punches is totally different to anything Dereck has fought before. Dereck’s an improving fighter. We know that. We’re not foolish enough [to think otherwise], and you’ll see that in David’s conditioning – he’s prepared for someone that is going to try and stand up [to him]. David has just got this desire to hurt him, and that’s just been giving him that extra edge in every session.”
I mentioned to Don Charles that of all Haye’s opponents, Jean-Marc Mormeck is the fighter Chisora most closely resembles style-wise. “No disrespect to Mormeck, but he is actually a poor version of what Chisora does,” countered Charles.
“[That sort of style] is actually going to cause David Haye massive headaches. I know they’re not sitting pretty where they are. I would rather be in our shoes than in their shoes, because Dereck’s style is almost un-fightable. Talk to Vitali Klitschko, talk to Helenius. They had a gameplan when they got in that ring, but Dereck is very deceitful in that when you are looking at him from an outside point of view, and don’t really study him, he looks like a big, flubby guy just coming forwards.”
He added: “Adam Booth and David Haye, they’ve always ridiculed Dereck Chisora, they don’t rate him. But when Haye gets in that ring and tries to land a clean shot on Dereck Chisora, that’s what is going to mess him up. It’s common knowledge that Dereck can’t give David Haye room to operate and do the 101 feints that he does. He feints, feints, feints before he throws punches. We’re not into the feinting game, we’re into the letting arms go game. We’ve worked on everything, and you will see a tighter Dereck Chisora on the night.”
Many of those who love boxing are wary of a similar debacle to the Audley Harrison fight, which harmed the sport's image. Adam Booth laughed off comparisons between that fight and this one when I asked him if Haye vs Chisora might flop too.
“Not a chance in hell,” he said. “David was standing there, and Audley kept staying away from him. Audley is not in the ring on Saturday, so it can’t possibly be like that. Whether this fight goes five seconds or the full distance, it’s going to be entertaining. I don’t think you’ll find anyone that feels differently. The reason why there’s a cliché, ‘styles make fights’, is because styles do make fights! And Audley’s style always makes for certain types of fights, but these two gel big-time.”
One hopes Booth is right, and fans get Moorer vs. Cooper rather than Moorer vs. Couser. Away from gimmicks concocted to grab the attention of those who think Mike Tyson was the greatest fighter ever, like the ridiculous metal barrier propped up limply between the pair at photo opportunities and press-conferences, the reality is that this fight could actually catch fire. We might even get a modern day version of Brian London vs. Dick Richardson, although after the pre-fight controversy it’s far more likely that these two will just hug and make-up. Despite my optimism, realistically Haye ought to stop Chisora around the fourth of this scheduled ten-rounder.
On the undercard, Liam Walsh meets Italian veteran Domenico Urbano over twelve for the vacant WBO European bauble. “Liam is doing well, he’s had a bit of time out, but he’s back in there now,” said Frank Warren when discussing Walsh’s bout. “Urbano is a durable fighter and I’ll bet he gives Liam a really good fight. It gives Liam an opportunity to break into the WBO rankings, which is the direction we’re going with him.”
Matthew Hall and Gary O’Sullivan cross paths in another twelve rounder, with Hall knowing a loss will put an end to his career. “Hall’s got to win it,” stated Warren. “Gary O’Sullivan has a good record, 14-0 (9), and he comes to fight. You know how Matthew fights, he walks forward, he throws shots, lets them go all the time. Gary O’Sullivan fancies it, so we’ll see a decent fight there.”
An interesting eight round welterweight contest sees unbeaten prospect Ronnie Heffron, 9-0 (5), matched with the ever dangerous Connemara Kid, Peter McDonagh. The traveller’s last big upset win came two years ago against Curtis Woodhouse, and one has to go back two years before that for his victory over Lee Purdy.
On his night, however, McDonagh can be a nightmare for anyone. “I have a lot of belief in Ronnie,” Warren intoned. “He’s a good young fighter who’s going places, and Peter McDonagh will be a good, stiff test for him. There’s no doubt about that.”