By Terence Dooley
After days of speculation, manoeuvring and “Will they/won’t they” conversations it was revealed earlier today that David Haye, 25-2 (23), and Dereck Chisora, 15-3 (9), will meet at Upton Park on July 14 after the Luxembourg Boxing Federation rubberstamped licences for the two men. This move created the conditions necessary to make the bout despite the fact that Chisora’s BBBoC licence was suspended in February following his part in a press conference brawl with Haye. The fact that the vacant, and newly minted, WBO Inter-Continental title is on the line has raised the fight from a grudge non-title affair into the realm of championship boxing.
Haye escaped sanction for the now infamous Munich brawl, which took place in the Olympiahalle Arena after Chisora’s wide decision defeat to a creaking Vitali Klitschko on February 18, as he had officially retired from the sport following – although some would say mid-way through – his bout with Wladimir Klitschko last July. Now, though, Haye is back and is set to meet the man he dismissed with the biting, not to mention factually incorrect, statement, “You’ve lost three in a row”, moments before belting Chisora in the face with the best right hand he had thrown in quite some time at the press conference brawl.
Naturally, Chisora reacted to Haye’s act of aggression. Threatening to “literally shoot” his foe – as opposed to figuratively shooting him with his words and fingers. Their ugly confrontation was caught on numerous cameras and then beamed around the world as part of a “boxing’s night of shame” news package. This “night of shame” led to renewed, and badly thought out, calls to ban the sport and the usual bout of hand wringing over its tarnished image.
On the one hand, there were those who hated the brawl and everything it stood for; on the other hand were those who watched Haye swing a tripod around like a scallywag on a stag weekend in Magaluf and said, “These two need to fight for real,”. Now it is on, barring a strained back or toe injury between now and July, and is already drawing in casual fans. They will no doubt sign up to BoxNation, who are promoting the bout along with Team Sauerland, in order to watch the showdown. This is good for the sport, right? Probably not.
Prior to their brawl in Germany there was zero demand for a meeting between Haye and Chisora. Controversy and flailing tripods aside, this is a fight between second and third-tier heavyweights, one of whom will have been out for a year and the other is 1-3 in recent fights. Remember, Chisora lost his ‘0’ when he couldn’t muster enough drive to get himself into shape for a British and Commonwealth title defence against Tyson Fury before dropping decisions to Robert Helenius and Vitali Klitschko, with a routine win over Remigijus Ziausys in November briefly stopping the rot. Haye has failed to fire in his last three fights; he was awful and devoid of a Plan B versus Wlad, pedestrian against Harrison and wild versus Ruiz.
Sure, “Hayemaker” picked up a toe injury against Wlad, and to my knowledge there has never been an example of a fighter battling through this level of adversity in order to win a fight, but his toe was working fine during his November 2010 meeting with Audley Harrison, which saw “A-Force” lose by third-round TKO and Sky KO PPV as a direct result of what many, wrongly in my view, perceived to be a con job. Ditto for his April 2010 meeting with John Ruiz, in which Haye dropped his man in the first only to ditch his own technique as it went on.
If you view it this way, and I accept that many probably won’t, you have one guy who has not put in a top performance since beating Nikolay Valuev in November 2009 and another guy who, well has never put in a top winning performance over anyone beyond the level of Sam Sexton and a shot Danny Williams. Form an orderly queue, right? Or given their history, just bring some orderlies.
Stylistically, we are likely to see Chisora trundle forward, the ring rusty and seemingly past it Haye will load up on right hands. There is no guarantee that it will spark to life from the get-go as Haye’s last big domestic grudge match, that fight with Harrison, started slowly and continued in that vein until Haye landed a series of wild shots in a bout that went a long way towards showing that placing two demented heavyweights in a boxing ring does not guarantee a good show. On paper, press conference controversy aside, Haye-Chisora does not look like a good fight.
As for the legitimacy of Luxembourg Boxing Federation, they have a website and have been around since 1922, but they have not put on a fight of this type before and you have to ask questions about the calibre of their officials, as they will not use BBBoC officials, and their medical criteria. Can they provide the paying public with a safe and clean fight? We will see.
Frank Warren, when announcing the contest, told Boxingscene’s Rick Reeno that: “The show will be licensed by the Luxembourg Boxing Commission, which was formed in 1922. Luxembourg is affiliated with the EBU, the European Boxing Union, and the four alphabet bodies.” This is the same EBU that appointed the officials who, according to Warren, perpetrated an “injustice” on Chisora when he lost a split decision to Robert Helenius in December. Warren protested the officiating of that bout and said he planned to lodge a complaint with the EBU. Now the European governing body that “robbed” his man are part of the defence used to verbally legitimise a commission that has zero big fight experience.
If the EBU could not do right by Chisora in Helsinki and beyond then how are they supposed to insure that the new mob gets it right come July? The Luxembourg Boxing Federation is also linked to the four governing bodies: the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO - the same bodies that hand out spurious titles with the zeal of a paedophile handing out candy at the school gates. So the L.B.F./L.B.C. are the real deal, clearly.
As for what this saga means for the BBBoC. Boxingscene recently explored their ability to make legally binding rulings and decided that they are in no position to defend themselves should someone challenge their “authority”. Well, a challenge has come and on past evidence the Board will not be able to meet it after leaving the door ajar due to a series of high profile officiating controversies.
Indeed, fair trade laws, which could also have been used to force the BBBoC into overturning Chisora’s suspension, have paved the way for the Luxembourg Boxing Federation. A sense that the Board is mired in hubris, cronyism and is not answerable to its members further opened the door. Some in the trade are arguing that this is a chance to reform the governing body for the better, which is a fair point, but this move is not about reform or justice - it is about making money from the controversy and column inches generated by the brawl in Munich. Therefore we’re all culpable of creating the perceived need for this fight and handing yet another organisation a shot at legitimacy. It feels less like a legitimate fight and more like a WWE style smash and grab.
Cue outrage from the Hearn family, naturally, who have focussed on the fact that Warren should not bypass the BBBoC. It is a fair point, undermined somewhat by Eddie Hearn’s recent positive comments about Tony Bellew, telling me that “He can be huge star”, and the fact that they are at odds with his earlier position on Bellew, when he told our own Shaun Brown that his rematch with Ovill McKenzie was a “joke” and that the Liverpudlian “ran all night”. Promoters have short memories; they say one thing one day, forget it immediately and then make a contrary statement in good faith the very next day, Memento style. If the Hearns were in Warren’s position they would plough the same furrow, it is part and parcel of the hypocrisy of the sport. One we all partake in to varying degrees.
It all means that the fight is morally wrong, but legitimate, a match between two guys who have looked average recently that has captured the imagination simply because they acted like clowns in Munich. The real sting is that the winner will probably get a crack at one of the Klitschkos. You can either watch it unfold or say “enough is enough” and give it a miss.
Either way, it is going to happen. Once the tickets and TV subs are sold, the money counted and dust settles we’ll be left sifting through the rubble to see if it is the start of a glorious period of competition when it comes to licensing fights on British soil or the beginning of the end. The Board could end up on a similar legitimate footing to the N.Y.S.A.C. in the U.S.A. and the new body may possibly ape the “dig ‘em up and throw ‘em in” morals of the smaller American commissions given their willingness to licence two guys who in one way or another dodged a bullet (a metaphorical one, not a literal one) after their embarrassing press conference shenanigans.
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