DEREK CHISORA can walk away from the ring and never have to worry about his place in British boxing. Chisora fought the bravest 12 rounds of his life to survive and push Joseph Parker all the way to the final bell at the Manchester Arena on Saturday. It was a timeless brawl, a heavyweight fight to be remembered for a long, long time.
In defeat there was the expected defiance from Chisora and a refusal to consider calling the fight, his 44th, his last. It would be good if Del Boy has changed his mind and it would also be totally understandable if he is planning his next fight. Chisora is not just a throwback, he might just be the last throwback.
In the now sacred Manchester ring, Chisora and Parker finished the year with a truly wonderful fight of sacrifice, desire and savagery to remind every single person in the boxing business what the sport is all about. In the same arena I once watched Chris Eubank and Carl Thompson do something similar and that experience has never left me, perhaps it damaged me; witnesses to Parker and Chisora II will carry the same memories and feelings. It was extreme.
The crowd of about 12,000 came out on a dark and damp Manchester night to show their devotion to Chisora; they helped to get him through the hardest 12 rounds of his life. The collective roar – part hope and prayer – each time Chisora rallied broke through the sound guard on my ringside headset. By the way, Del Boy knows a thing or two about hard, 12-round fights.
Each time Chisora was shaken, hurt, staggering and each and every single time the referee, Howard Foster, looked poised to step in, Chisora found a punch or two and the crowd was up out of their seats. At the end of several rounds there was not a soul sitting in the glorious venue. They sang his name, they howled his name and they gasped in unison during their journey with their fighter who was once their villain.
Parker finished several rounds with a look of utter wonder on his face as Chisora peeled away and often stumbled back to his corner. Parker, like the rest of us, had no idea what was keeping Chisora up and keeping Chisora in the fight; there is no manual for that strain of bravery, stupidity and desire.
At the bell to start each round, the pair paused for a second of respect before Foster gave the nod to continue and then the war, another 180-second battle over every single inch of the Manchester canvas, resumed. They fought a 36-minute round in many ways. It was often a hard watch, especially from ringside in the opening half of the fight; it was a half when Chisora took far too many shots flush on his chin. Sure, Chisora always fired back, always had an instinctive awareness of where he was and what he had to do, but as Parker sunk in some beautiful right hands, there was certainly a mounting argument for an intervention.
Foster, a terrific referee, was flawless and his moments – the moments when he looked ready to end the fight – all became part of the unfolding and truly unforgettable fight that closed the boxing year. And then the final bell sounded and it was time to celebrate, look back and consider the future.
It all started, I guess, in May with the split decision loss suffered by Chisora in their first fight. There was never, let’s get it right, a crazy demand for a second fight, but during the week in Manchester it became obvious that far more than revenge was on the line. There was a growing sense that something special was planned; Parker was mean, Chisora was ready. They promised a different fight, a very different fight. And that is what they delivered.
Parker was so sharp in the opening rounds; fast jabs, little feints, accurate rights and then quality left hooks. And then the short right uppercut as Chisora bent in and away from the jab; it was the punch that defined the fight. Chisora let his right go too few times in the opening rounds; he should have used it more in the fight.
The first 70 seconds of round two was brutal; the story of the next 10 rounds in many ways. Parker connected with a great left hook, Chisora fired back with a big right and they repeated the sequence. Parker was starting to find the short space for the uppercut and Chisora was shrugging it off. That, trust me, never lasts long.
I think Foster first looked a bit concerned at the end of the second round. It was that type of night. Later, between rounds, the Rocky music started and for a moment – honestly – I thought the damn song was only playing in my head.
In the fourth, the uppercut sent Chisora hurt and stumbling into the ropes; Foster gave a count, Chisora was not happy. Parker wasted 10 seconds before moving in. It was a hard round to watch.
In round five, Chisora rallied and I think he won the round. He started to hit Parker to the body – both legal and illegal; there was no chance of any tears from Parker. The crowd had been sucked in by the time the bell sounded. Del Boy stuck to the body plan in the sixth, but Parker was hurting him with nasty rights.
Chisora sunk to his knees in round seven from a sickening right uppercut. He was badly hurt and there was 1-20 left on the clock. It looked like a lost cause, the end for the warrior. Chisora got up, charged back, let his fists go, Parker covered and moved, the crowd howled and the seconds ticked away. What a round.
“Don’t get greedy,” Andy Lee told Parker before the start of round eight. They are now boxing’s new golden couple. Parker, by the way, listened.
It was another right uppercut in round eight and Chisora needed the ropes to stay up again and that meant another count. The fight was hard, really hard and it was hard for both. Please, don’t imagine that Parker was smiling and having fun in there even as he dominated. The new Parker is a dangerous fighter.
At the end of eight, I had Parker a mile in front. A long lead, the type of lead that makes people wonder if there is a mercy stoppage coming.
Chisora was hurt in the ninth and Foster looked like he was just inches and a second away from calling it off. But then Chisora let his hands go wildly. It was desperate and glorious and it worked; there are no rules in the ninth round of a heavyweight slugfest like this. Foster, as they say, played a blinder.
Parker was tired in the 10th and he showed it. Chisora bullied him at times. Parker found some quality in the 11th. This was a real fight and they both came out hurting for the ceremonial touching of gloves at the start of round 12. The standing ovation would have lasted ten minutes if that was allowed in our rules.
The bell sounded and they, obviously, put on the final round we all expected. Del Boy was hurt again, tucked up, survived and then came back. How? I have no idea and neither did Parker. The bell finished the classic. What a fight.
“What kept him in the fight?” Parker asked me in the changing room at the very end. I guess it was just, well, the Del Boy way.
The scores were far too close. I hope they are not used as a reason for fighting again. For the record they were: 115-111 (Ingo Barrabas), 114-112 (Michael Alexander) and 115-110 (Giustino Di Giovanni). This is not the time to debate bad scores. Chisora lost for the 12th time, Parker won for the 30th time. However, this was not a fight that needed statistics because what they did in that ring defied numbers and calculations.
To end and to make it clear, this was not a final tribute to Chisora and that is a pity; I would like to see Dereck Chisora walk away from the boxing ring. I also understand and respect why he will not.