BOXING NEWS celebrates its 110th birthday this week. Though the sport has evolved since the days when James J. Jeffries was being hauled out of retirement to take on Jack Johnson in an ugly world heavyweight title fight, one thing remains the same: It’s all about the money. Back in 1909, when BN was born, we expressed our concerns about the white Jeffries being matched with the black Johnson because it shamelessly exploited the race division that was prevalent back then. There was also the worry that after being inactive for six years, Jeffries was in no shape to fight the world heavyweight champion. Boxing, you see, has always been quick to recognise an opportunity to make some money, irrespective of any morality and its effect on the sport at the heart of it.
As BN prepared to blow out its candles this week, perennial heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora yet again blew his head gasket at a press conference. The man who has bitten, slapped, spat and brawled his way into the headlines, who has flipped and thrown tables in anger, this week went on a one-man protest about poor pay. He took aim at promoters Eddie Hearn and Kalle Sauerland, fellow boxers Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis, and showered them with effs, ucks, offs and yous.
For some, Chisora’s demand to get paid more was entertaining and his grievances worthwhile. “Del Boy” is the loveable loose cannon who has been delivering wild and exciting warfare for many years so his complaint that he, and not Taylor-Prograis, should be topping the October 26 bill in his home city of London was understandable to an extent.
But insulting Taylor and Prograis was poor form. And was it really the right time for Chisora to voice his concerns? After all, by the time he was sitting at the press conference table one would presume he would have long been aware that his fight with Joseph Parker was not the headliner. Waiting until there was a microphone under his mouth only made him look and sound like a spoilt brat who was not getting his own way.
Putting blame solely on the brat is unfair, however. Those who spoil them in the first place are arguably just as responsible, are they not? Boxers are being conditioned to expect more money than is sustainable through the rise of pay-per-views in the UK and the riches boasted by streaming services in the USA. It was perhaps no coincidence that Chisora’s outburst came days after it was confirmed that two non-boxers – YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul – will become boxers and headline a multi-million dollar boxing event staged by Hearn and Matchroom in Los Angeles in November. The message is loud and clear: If you can sell a pay-per-view, irrespective of your talent or experience or status, you are quids in.
It’s little wonder, then, that Chisora – after taking his fair share of lumps over the years – wants more than he’s currently getting. In his mind, the best way to do that is not to put his head down and fight and win and secure a world title chance, it’s to put his head up and shout and swear and make an absolute stink. After years of behaving atrociously and only seeing his purse rise and rise and rise, it’s little wonder that Chisora saw a press conference, with its promises of instant headlines and exposure, as his best chance to increase his value even further.
Some might say Chisora isn’t showing the sport any respect, but the truth is he is playing it for all it’s worth. And after the long and punishing career he’s endured, and after all the massive blows he’s already taken, it’s hard to blame him.
110 Years of Boxing News is currently in production and will be on sale in November. It focuses on each decade, rating the best fighters from each 10-year period, includes new interviews and uncovers unmissable content from our archives.