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Only Derek Chisora can decide when the time is right to retire

Derek Chisora
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Matt Christie on the impossible decision facing Derek Chisora

YOU nor I have the right to tell a grown man to stop fighting. Only a governing body, commissioner or doctor can do that. And even then, there will be other governing bodies, commissioners and doctors telling him he can. We can express our opinion, friends and family can offer advice or even make a plea, but that’s as far as it goes. If a fighter is fit and well, the decision to retire can only come from within.

For what it’s worth, my opinion is this: Derek Chisora should not fight again. Though he summoned one of the most courageous efforts I have ever seen inside a boxing ring, it was clear that the years have caught up with him. Joseph Parker’s blows were having a more pronounced effect on his legs and body than punches he’s taken from bigger hitters in the past. This was after a training camp that the soon-to-be 38-year-old described as one of his best.

It is all easy for me to say. Very, very easy for me to sit here and pass judgement on another in one moment then get on with my life in the next. The decision, when the time comes for Derek to make it, and more so live with the consequences of it, will be infinitely harder. Boxing defines him. It gives him purpose. Boxing is the reason why he’s recognised everywhere he goes, the reason why thousands of fans chant his name. It is, in short, the reason why Derek Chisora is Derek “War” Chisora, a fighter and character we have all grown to love. Furthermore, he has become someone he loves, too. Who am I, a glorified boxing fan, to tell him to stop doing what makes him happy to get up in the morning?

Truth is, whether he competes again or not, it will be miraculous if Chisora does not suffer in later life as a consequence of the punches he has already taken. That’s a grim prognosis and perhaps not ideal Christmas time reading so I apologise for that. But, as someone who spends more time with ex-boxers than most, I do feel it needs to be said. We like to call Chisora a throwback. That is of course a compliment. He dusts himself down after a loss and looks for the next challenge. Inside a boxing ring, he feels invincible, he’s fearless, he’s alive. Yet too often forgotten is the fate of those who approach the sport with a devil-may-care attitude.

Another important point is that Chisora – a man I like and fighter I greatly admire – is not hugely concerned about what happens tomorrow, let alone the day after that. As I wrote in last week’s Boxing News, if he doesn’t care about his future, why should we? But we do care. We can’t help but care for this man who has given us so much.

Fighters are still badly educated when it comes to how their careers can affect them. Promoters, too. In the immediate aftermath, Eddie Hearn suggested Chisora’s punch resistance has not gone so, should he decide to fight again, that decision will be supported. That is not a criticism of Hearn. He looks after his fighters exceptionally well, but it is worthwhile asking if he and those around Chisora truly understand the long-term implications of being able to take a punch as readily and regularly as Derek does.

Derek Chisora
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Chisora, like other boxers, will tell you he feels better than ever, that he’s healthy, that he does not slur and is suffering no ill-effects from the countless whacks his skull has endured. Similarly, we’ve heard umpteen recently retired fighters say, ‘I got out with my faculties intact’. That is likely true for now. But brain damage is a slow burner and once alight, there’s no way to stop it.

Now, whether Chisora will care if that fire becomes too hot to bear is another matter. Surely he will. A doting dad whose kids will care. The sport should care too but whether it really does is up for interpretation. Because if there was some aftercare in place, if there was a route out of the sport that was not accompanied by more beatings on the way, my own fears for the future of fighters – and in turn the sport – would not be so acute.

How many promoters or big-name fighters have publicly backed Ringside Charitable Trust, the only registered charity in the UK that is actively raising money to help ex-boxers? How many people in the industry – whether that be fighters, promoters or those in the media who can really make a difference – have referenced Tris Dixon’s book, Damage, as essential reading? To do so would be to admit there’s a problem.

So we try not to dwell on the long-term effects of the sport and instead cheer the here and now. But who will cheer in years to come when the likes of Chisora encounter serious health issues? Who will be there to break their fall? If the answer can be found in what’s currently being done for heroes of the past – and there are some true legends confined to the shadows whose condition would shock you – then the outlook isn’t particularly bright.

Which is why Chisora should think long and hard about the fickle nature of the fame he currently adores and genuinely fears slipping away. I do not know Derek inside out. But I have seen his heart of gold in action outside the ropes, I have laughed at his wicked sense of humour, I have enjoyed his company and know that Derek Chisora is a special and unique person, regardless of whether he fights or not. One hopes that he knows that too.

Last week, I asked him to tell me the first thing that came into his mind when I mentioned the names of his old opponents. Like Danny Williams, the fighter who has lost 20 times since Chisora stopped him in two rounds to take the British heavyweight title 11 years ago. After losing to Derek, the British Boxing Board of Control denied Williams the chance to apply for a licence again. That he continues to find commissions and countries that will allow him to box, like the National Professional Boxing League of Ukraine, which two weeks ago hosted the 48-year-old’s four-round loss to Serdar Avci, highlights how easy it is for fighters to fight if they want to fight. And how difficult it is to make them stop if they don’t want to stop.

Chisora’s response to ‘Danny Williams’ consisted of one word.

“Sad.”

  • I WOULD like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas and New Year from everyone at Boxing News. Your support is cherished more than you know.

    Thank you, too, to all the boxers, trainers, managers and promoters who give us something to write about every week and to all the people who have been so generous with their time for interviews and information. And to everyone who has worked so tirelessly to keep the sport alive in trying circumstances over the past two years, we salute you.

    I am aware that I can moan and grumble a little too much on these pages. But never mistake that for anything other than a deep affection for boxing, its fighters and its future. We should be optimistic, after an eventful and exciting 2021 despite the difficulties, that 2022 will be a good one.

    We hope this 80-page special will keep you occupied until the next issue comes out on January 6. In the meantime, make the most of your loved ones, stay safe, and raise a glass to the fighters who sacrifice so much for our entertainment.

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