December 29, 2016
December 29, 2016
fight of the year

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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DERECK CHISORA threw a table. Yep, just picked it up and launched it in the direction of his opponent Dillian Whyte. It was a nauseating, horrible display of violence, and – despite the undisputed boost it will have given to pay-per-view sales – it was the last thing the sport needed after one of the toughest 12 months in regard to health and safety. Many blamed Matchroom and Sky for creating a situation where trouble would quite literally fly. And while only the naïve would doubt that both parties hoped the press conference would provide some intrigue, only the foolish would presume such an unthinkable incident could be scripted.

Yes, tougher security measures could have been put in place, and some angry words averted, particularly with the incident coming just a week after the unsavoury skirmish between David Haye and Tony Bellew (who have both been called before the Board for losing control). Yes, every possible step should have been taken to ensure this one went off without such a deafening bang.

From the point of view of the promoters, though, this is a last ditch attempt to generate more interest and is difficult to get right. In the US, the final press conferences are painfully dull, so drenched in sponsors’ messages and mind-numbing politeness, interest in the contest all but drowns. In the UK, efforts are made for the final marketing drive to achieve success. But it’s time to let the impending contest speak for itself in the right way. The last battle cries can still be engrossing stuff without tables and punches being thrown. The job here is to set the scene, not demolish the entire production.

The tightrope-walking act the sport performs in the public eye is certainly not helped by ugly altercations occurring before the opening bell, but the buck has to stop with the boxers. If one needs to be wrapped in a straightjacket before taking their seat at a press conference, if every moveable object needs to be removed from arm’s length in case it gets picked up and hurled, then questions must be asked about their status as a licensed fighter.

It should never have happened, but let’s face it, no-one – including Eddie Hearn and Adam Smith – could have legislated for it, simply because throwing tables is an almost unthinkable, ridiculous thing to do. To you and I, it’s akin to picking up the television and throwing it out of the window because there’s an annoying programme on, taking a run up and putting your head through the front door because the lock is frozen and the key won’t work, or performing a flying kick at the oven after being served the same stinking meal for the third day running. You just wouldn’t, would you? The thing is, Chisora is not like you and me. And two days after table take-off, and after many calls to throw him out of the sport (this was not his first rodeo), he showed again why he’s not like you and me, when he engaged in an astonishingly thrilling 12-rounder with his enemy.

As turnarounds go, it was almost heroic. Like Whyte, not an innocent party in the gruesome scenes beforehand, Chisora exhibited the intense emotion that boxers feel before and during contests. And thankfully, the exhibition was eye-wateringly awe-inspiring, one that reminded everyone why boxing – when on form – is the greatest sport in the world, and the undisputed king when it comes to thrills and spills. Anyone unaware that boxers are indeed a different breed should sit down and watch that bout. It takes incredible courage to get inside the ring, and even more to push your body to the brink like that. After weeks of letting the sport down, Chisora and Whyte did it proud. To my mind, it was the best fight the heavyweight division has produced for years. Chisora didn’t get the verdict, which could be deemed unlucky, or the cruel might even call it justice, but at least he put some wrongs right. All that’s left now is to stage the sequel, but let’s keep the trailers clean and keep the X-rated stuff in the ring.

This article was originally published in Boxing News magazine