Dereck Chisora: Whistling in the Boneyard

by Cliff Rold

It’s hard not to be entertained by Heavyweight Dereck Chisora (15-2, 9 KO). 

Heading into a shot at WBC Heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KO) this Saturday (Epix, 4:30 PM EST), it’s harded to find many giving him much of a shot at victory.  Sure, he’s a dozen years younger.  He’s coming off a career best performance.

But he’s Dereck Chisora.

And the other guy is Vitali Klitschko.

Damn the odds.  Chisora, with only seventeen starts, seems to recognize two things.  He is expected to lose and, because of that, he has nothing to lose from first bell to last.

How serious this fight is to be taken will largely be decided between those echoing clangs.  The weigh-in will also provide clues.  In the two biggest fights of his career to date, the scale has spoken volumes about what fans are going to get from Chisora.

In July 2011, the British-based Chisora took an undefeated mark into a battle with fellow undefeated Brit Tyson Fury.  He also took close to twenty pounds too much with him into the ring.  Make no mistake.  Chisora-Fury ended up a good scrap.  Fury proved to be highly underrated by the overly skeptical (ahem…).

Chisora, a career-high 261 lbs., didn’t embarrass himself.  He didn’t give himself the best chance to win either.  While able to rock Fury in spots, his wind wasn’t there to sustain attacks for rounds at a time.  He’s been back in the 240s for each of his two subsequent bouts and looked the better for it.

In particular, he looked the better for it is losing a highly debated decision to Robert Helenius in December 2011.  For twelve rounds, Chisora was visibly improved from the Fury affair.  His jab was present.  So were shots to the body, a straight, rather than lopping, right hand, and a chin able to absorb some serious jolts.  The fight was more competitive than the chants of ‘robbery’ have allowed, but that he looked the winner is a fair assessment. 

It was enough, in defeat, to get Chisora the opportunity ahead.  On the press side, he’s embraced his chances.  He declares he will win by round eight.  He states he isn’t afraid to fight dirty.  It’s all classic boxing salesmanship and hyperbole.

The glint in Chisora’s eye, the attitude he brings with the rhetoric, makes it more interesting than usual.  Twice he had previous title shots at brother Wladimir fall apart due to injuries to the younger Klitschko.  Now he has the man perceived as the tougher, the meaner, of the two siblings.

He’s having fun with it.

Chisora is, to borrow an old cliché, whistling in the graveyard.  He is treating the hole in the ground with his name on it not as inevitability, not as the place where Vitali’s 44th win will meet canvas, but as the site of the statue to be erected in his honor.

Good for him.  Sometimes whistling in the graveyard is just nervous noise.  Sometimes it’s the birth of a better fight than anyone hoped for.  With days to go, we can still hope for something neither Klitschko has had much of for years.

A good fight.

Another Brit, David Haye, did plenty of whistling before his mega-fight with Wladimir last year.  He couldn’t deliver the goods.  Stubbed toes are a pain.  So are long left jabs, champions in their prime with double digit win streaks, and steaming plates of crow. 

No one has seen Haye in the ring since. 

In recent vintage, Welterweight Ricardo Mayorga made a career off the whistle.  Lacking in abundant technical skill, Mayorga promised victory against most of the champions of his time.  He succeeded against Andrew Lewis, the late Vernon Forrest, and Fernando Vargas.  Not so much against Cory Spinks, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, and Miguel Cotto.

The common ingredient in all those fight, even Spinks, was Mayorga as entertainer.  Even when he didn’t win, the smoking Nicaraguan went out on his shield and gave money’s worth effort.  Mayorga managed to have his moments with every one of his betters.  There is value in that, in the man who talks a good game and shows ass trying to live up to his own bravado. 

The sin is to talk the talk and walk away.  In boxing, there is always forgiveness granted to the man who leaves fans believing he came to win even when he couldn’t.

Stylistically, while Chisora, even against Helenius, can have lulls of inactivity, he has shown so far a willingness to take a shot to deliver one.  It’s not the best strategy in facing Vitali Klitschko.  Chisora seems to mean it anyways when he says he’s going to win with the strategy that has worked for him to date. 

Corrie Sanders meant it too, trying to win and failing against Vitali.  The same was true for Chris Arreola.   

It’s no surprise those fights ended up being watchable despite inevitability overcoming the chances for an upset.  Compare them to tedium like Vitali versus Samuel Peter, Shannon Briggs, or even Klitschko’s outstanding last win against Tomasz Adamek.  It never felt like those opponents were really trying to win, or at least were convinced they could not early enough to make the seconds ticking off the clock move slower.

Chisora-Klitschko holds the promise of time passing quickly.  It’s a tune we can all whistle along to.          

The Weekly Ledger

But wait, there’s more…

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Casimero Survives the (Post)Fight:   
Updated Division Ratings:
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Cliff’s Notes… It’s not really what Floyd Mayweather said about New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.  Pointing to Lin’s ethnicity is fairly obvious.  It’s how he said it.  It’s also how he responded to the backlash.  Context matters, and understanding all the nuance of the Lin story is what makes his being of Asian descent only one part of the story.  And let’s be clear: there is no better story in sport over the last couple weeks.  Maybe he has staying power.  Maybe he’s “Bird” Fidrych.  Either way, it’s fun and that’s what sport is supposed to be…But, hey, Mayweather probably sold another pay-per-view or two among the ‘please let him lose’ crowd.  That Mayweather doesn’t get nuance should surprise no one…Maybe he should follow the advice singer Chris Brown needs badly: Twitter is not always your friend…As to talking up a fight, the phony-feeling drug testing chatter between Devon Alexander and Marcos Maidana was sure a nice way to get their fight some free press…Was Pirog-N’Jikam at Middleweight even signed before it got postponed?

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at [email protected]

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