WHEN you’re a boxing journalist, retaining your own integrity while not wishing to appear disrespectful to the fighters is a difficult balancing act. The upcoming third encounter between Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora showcases that tightrope.
On the one hand, this contest is a mismatch that should not have been made. Fury won the first two bouts with Chisora comfortably. The second time it became so one-sided it was hard to watch. Though Chisora, now 38 years old, has remained an ever-present and at times awe-inspiring force in the division, the fact he’s lost the vast majority of his biggest fights – and taken plenty of punishment along the way – makes a third shot at Fury hard to stomach.
It may turn out to be an entertaining scrap but the strong possibility of Chisora taking another pounding, regardless of the outcome, is bothersome to say the least.
Yet by stating all of the above we are disrespecting the fighters and their wishes, at least in their opinion. That viewpoint is understandable. Chisora has dedicated his life to the sport of boxing. He loves to fight, he adores the attention it brings. And after many years spent cultivating a reputation in which he now revels, Chisora takes his place atop the bill in a British stadium fight where he will challenge for a world belt. Therefore suggesting he should have stopped fighting long ago, simply because we care deeply for his wellbeing and his future, can be misconstrued as disrespect.
For Fury, a fighter we at Boxing News have long recognised as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers out there, criticising his choices – in this case, Chisora as his latest opponent – is always presumed to be a personal insult. That’s not what we’re doing, of course.
But this is boxing, where any notion of denunciation from writers is deemed distasteful given the effort fighters put forth inside the ring and the dangers they face while there. In truth, we make similar points but in different ways. Please don’t doubt how much we care.
The likelihood is that both fighters are closer to the end of their careers than the start. One day soon, Chisora will throw that looping overarm right for the last time. Fury, too, will realise his reactions have faded and all that awaits is the terrifying prospect of life outside the ropes. So though we can bemoan this contest – and we’re right to, frankly – it’s also imperative to make clear we understand, as best we can, what this sport means to Fury and Chisora.
This week, an interview with Kell Brook did the rounds on social media. Nine months after he stopped Amir Khan to tick every box in a terrific career, he told Boxing King Media how he now felt in retirement. “[I was boxing for] 27 years. It’s little bit like I’ve died, you know, because boxing has been my life… I’m a little bit lost.” Financially secure and a family man, Brook nonetheless paints a vivid picture of how excruciating the journey from the ring to normal life too frequently becomes.
Every retired boxer would come back in a heartbeat if they could suddenly be blessed with the gifts of youth. So we certainly don’t judge the likes of Chisora for taking every opportunity they can get, nor do we underestimate how difficult it is to give up a sport that has long defined who they are. Though we state concern, we do so from the heart and, we hope, for the right reasons. The boxing afterlife only gets harder when too many punches were swallowed in the past, after all.
The education around this matter still leaves a lot to be desired; one only has to look at the amount of rounds boxers continue to spar behind the scenes as evidence. In the meantime, sports like football are now going on the front foot to speak out about brain damage caused by heading the ball.
One of the most revealing interviews in the build-up to Fury-Chisora III was conducted by Carl Frampton when he spoke to Tyson about his recent retirement that lasted mere months. Fury – though seemingly in the midst of his peak – earnestly accepted that he could not walk away, that the sport was like a powerful drug so it’s therefore inevitable he will fight for too long and lose his unbeaten record. He is now cooking up a final hit for Chisora, while fearing that one day he too will yearn for a similar handout.
On Saturday night, inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the old rivals will come together and do the only thing that makes them feel alive.
Tomorrow can wait, they hope. All they want to do today is fight.