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By Charles Walmsley
I wanted to initially write something about Alistair Cook’s ever-growing reputation in the cricketing world, but in light of the recent bout of handbags between Vitali-Chisora and Chisora-Haye, it’s obvious that there are more pressing things to talk about. Britain’s Dereck Chisora has come under heavy criticism over the past couple of days, first for his inadvertent slap to Vitali Klitschko during the weigh-in, and then for the brawl that took place with David Haye in the post-match press conference on Saturday evening. While I do agree that the slap may have been a tad over the top and uncalled for, I actually think that boxing promoters will be licking their lips right now.
The heavyweight division has historically always been the crowd-pullers. The historic battles between Ali, Frazier and Foreman and then Tyson, Holyfield and Lennox after them have defined eras of boxing, and indeed, the world of sport in general. I do get the feeling, however, that this has not been the case over the past decade or so, and the more exciting and charismatic welter- and lightweight fighters have slowly overshadowed those in the heavyweight division.
It’s often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity – and that is exactly what Chisora’s recent spree has provided us with. Someone I know recently commented that boxing is currently going through a slump, especially given the continued rise of its more combative cousins in UFC and MMA. You might argue that fighting during a press conference and slapping fellow professionals is immature, disrespectful and (excuse the pun) un-Warren-ted at the same time – but really, how many people outside the hardcore followers of the sport had heard of Dereck Chisora before the past week?
In some senses, boxing could do with a bit of an injection of outside-ring confrontation – in a similar vein to professional wrestling if you will. Chisora, despite all that commentators and other promoters might say, has certainly made himself exponentially more marketable over the last week. It is to be expected as well. After all, who are viewers more likely to tune in to watch – a relatively average British boxer with a modest following, or a man who has made the sport headlines for a week, for act of lunacy after the other?
Mathematically speaking (and I realise that this could stop many people from reading further, but bear with me), I have always classed boxing as the intersection in the Venn diagram between sports and entertainment. A boxer losing one or two fights has never really been an issue with me. To kind of paraphrase Field of Dreams – “if you build up a fight, people will come”.
I’ll admit at this juncture (and before people start sending me their complaints) that the incident with the possible “glassing” was definitely too much, and indeed, has even become a police matter now. It was very unprofessional of Haye, now retired, to be present at the press conference in the first place, and to then approach his confrontation with Chisora and his team was bordering on cowardice. Things might have ended very differently, and the tone of this article would have been proportionally different as well. But it didn’t, and our interests are piqued more than they have been in a while.
The world of boxing needed a lift. The Klitschko brothers may be dominant, but they lack the charisma and the showmanship that we have attached to and associated with so many of the greats from the past. If incidents such as those that have transpired over the last week are what revive this great sport – then I, for one, am not complaining.