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By Matthew Handley
We can all admit Dereck Chisora is a bit of a tool. First, not only is he called Derek, he’s spelt it wrong. Secondly, his cranial capacity would probably render him too low-brow for The Only Way is Essex, whilst he’s more easily provoked than a bull in the Liverpool dressing room; the red thing, not that bulls hate Luis Suarez (although more on him later). This was demonstrated in the build-up to, and aftermath of, his WBC Heavyweight Championship fight against Vitali Klitschko in February. Despite losing with dignity in the ring, Chisora was, quite rightly derided for his awful behaviour outside of it, slapping Vitali at the weigh-in, and spitting at the Ukrainian’s brother, Wladimir, just before the bout began. However, what happened next overshadowed everything.
At the post-fight press conference, David Haye, who’d nominally retired after his defeat to Wladimir the previous year showed up, and began goading Chisora. Chisora confronted Haye, and before you could say ‘well, this is probably a bad idea’, a melée straight out of a particularly rowdy night at the Queen Vic erupted. Not even Peggy could’ve kept a lid on this one though, with Chisora afterwards alleging that Haye glassed him, before, with egregious stupidity, threatening to shoot his dreadlocked counterpart. Chisora was summarily suspended indefinitely by the British Board of Boxing Control, whilst Haye, lacking a license after his retirement looked to have closed any door for a route back into the sport.
Fast forward to 8th May 2012. At West Ham’s football ground, the two men sit either side of a seven-foot-fence more imposing than that the smokers’ area of Camera, with even more threatening security guards circling them. Between them sits Frank Warren, sleazeball boxing promoter who’s arranged for the two to scrap in July, exposing an EU loophole (good ol’ Brussels!) to allow them to fight in a bout licensed by the Luxembourg Boxing Federation (but of course).
Throughout boxing, people pontificate about what a disgrace this is, forgetting that they’re talking about a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry focussed on people repeatedly hitting each other in the head. Not only is this a massive money spinner, but it’s something the fans want to see (20,000 tickets were sold in the first 24 hours of sale).
So why do fans want to see this so much? Neither fighter is the best in their division; this is all about the narrative of the fight. In a division stale with the Klitschkos’ dominance, Haye and Chisora provide controversy and excitement. The idea that the whole event could descend into utter chaos at any time is what has drawn the morbid fascination of the public.
The same is true of all similar sporting ‘beefs’. Take the aforementioned Suarez who this season was, quite rightly, suspended for eight games after racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra; this was obviously a horrendous incident that deserves our condemnation and we should hope that the example made of the Uruguayan will prevent future actions. However, the drama between the two men added a compelling subplot to the team’s meeting again in February, when Suarez petulantly refused to shake the hand his opponent graciously extended to him. Stupid? Yes. Enthralling? You bet. Whilst we condemn sportspeople who act in such childish ways, we should not be ashamed of revelling in the drama it creates. When Haye and Chisora clash in July it will continue a rich tradition of personal conflicts being resolved in the sporting arena; it’s a tradition that I (not so anymore) secretly hope will carry on.