Dereck Chisora: I’m giving tickets away – I want to connect with milkmen and builders

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By The Times UK

Tyson Fury sells. It is largely the punching but partly the persona. All those unfiltered soundbites fed through a foghorn allied to the old Batman garb, the batshit crazy antics and Patsy Cline’s Crazy on the pre-fight karaoke. Ability and hype are a potent mix in boxing. And advertising. In the other corner is old warhorse Derek Chisora who is giving away tickets for Saturday’s second world title shot at the Tottenham Stadium.

Fury’s WBC title is on the line so a clash between two British heavyweights should be a big deal, but there has been a social media shrug at the £26.95 pay-per view price. Chisora is 39 next month and, although he has proved durable in elite company, his split decision win over Kubrat Pulev in July came after two losses to Joseph Parker and one to Oleksandr Usyk. He lost to Fury in 2011 and again in 2014. It is a trilogy but in terms of quality excitement it is less Ali-Frazier and more Jaws 3. Fury has had more books out than knockouts in the past three years, but the champion stocking filler may find it harder to fill stadiums in the future unless boxing stops messing around, and he gets in a ring with Usyk.

You can only beat what is in front of you, which brings us to Chisora. You can get as much as 12-1 on Chisora in a two-horse race. Nobody is expecting him to win. In his first biography Fury said: “If ever there was an opponent made for me it is Chisora.”

Old rivals Fury, left, and Chisora will fight each other for the third time on Saturday

Old rivals Fury, left, and Chisora will fight each other for the third time on Saturday (GETTY IMAGES)

So why is he still toiling away after a good and long career? The obvious answer is money. “People talk about a stack of cash, but this has nothing to do with cash bro,” he says in a hotel gym in Victoria. “It’s about enjoying life. I enjoy the grimness of training, I enjoy trying to get from A to B, training your mind. It’s easy to wake up in the morning, sit down at a computer, have a cup of tea and do the same thing every day for ten years.”

At previous meetings he has talked about corruption in Africa and his love of Phil Collins. This time it seems his longevity is on his mind as well as the state of Britain. “The pandemic depressed so many people and messed up so many things, and now people are suffering with the cost of living,” he says from somewhere behind glasses the size of windows.

“They have not got enough to spend. Frank Warren gave me tickets, but I don’t want to sell them. I can’t take your money. I’m giving them away. I’ve got them in my car. I’m about the common man. I’m about understanding the milkman, the builder, the dustbin man. I can connect better with the hard-working man doing a shift laying bricks than those rich guys.”

Like many in boxing it has not been a comfortable story. He spat water at Wladimir Klitschko before getting a lop-sided points loss to his brother in his first tilt at the WBC title in 2012. The post-fight press conference saw him brawl with David Haye and briefly lose his licence. In the more distant past are the more serious stains of assault charges. “I’ve changed as a person in the past decade since I fought Fury,” he says. “So has he. We’ve got families now.”

Given that Fury has been talking about getting out to Qatar for the World Cup, it is easy to believe he does not think Chisora has not changed sufficiently to cause him any serious problems. “Fury is not taking me lightly,” he insists. “I’m not scared of Fury. The only thing that scares me is when my kids are in hospital, and I can’t help them. But a man who bleeds like me, who has hands like me, that doesn’t scare me.”

Nor will he be bothered if Fury assumes the familiar guise of ranty ringmaster, albeit the champion was mainly generous before his bout with Dillian Whyte in April, leaving it to his opponent to question credentials. “People say Fury’s the man,” Whyte said back then. “No, he’s not. He beat up Deontay Wilder three times. Go back and look. Three years prior no-one cared about Tyson Fury fights.” He was still far too good for Whyte at Wembley Stadium, though, and most expect it to be a matter of when not if again on Saturday.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” says Chisora. “If I went to prison and there’s a guy who talks too much then I’m not worried about him. I’m worried about the guy in the corner who’s quiet. I know Fury but I don’t know which guy will turn up on Saturday. When he boxed Wilder, he changed. When he boxed Dillian Whyte, he changed.”

Whyte is still plugging away too, taking a disputed decision against Jermaine Franklin at Wembley Arena on Saturday night. Franklin said he was robbed. Whyte said he won by four rounds. That’s boxing. It did little to whet the appetite for the anticipated bout with Anthony Joshua, but Chisora makes it clear he will also be sticking around even if he suffers a 13th career defeat on Saturday. Fury’s own decision to announce his retirement came in the corridor to the press conference after beating Whyte. Few believed it and it duly lasted about an hour.

Chisora in the Halloween mood for the weigh-in ahead of his fight with Oleksandr Usyk in October 2020

Chisora in the Halloween mood for the weigh-in ahead of his fight with Oleksandr Usyk in October 2020

“Retirement is for pussies,” says Chisora. “The day you retire is the day you put yourself in the grave. We should not let people retire. If a nurse says she has had enough, we should tell her to carry on and come in once a week for three hours and help younger nurses. Then guess what? She has a purpose in her life. She don’t have to do all those long hours she used to and, yeah, she will get paid less but she’ll be happy. When you retire at 65 then subconsciously you think you have 15 summers before you die. And the average black man dies a lot younger. For me, turning 40 next year means I’m almost at my death bed.”

We move onto Boris Johnson. Chisora is a fan. He even wore a Johnson mask at the weigh-in for his fight with Pulev. What does he like about a figure whose own party turned against him? “Everything,” he says. “Listen, Boris don’t run the country. You get someone like Boris and then build a team around him. He’s the face, but Boris is my guy. He brought Brexit. He delivered as London mayor. People have their own opinions. That’s fine. It’s the same with Trump. I like him. Why? Well, people said he was going to cause a war, but he left, Joe Biden came in and now there is a war. I think Trump protected more people than the guy who seems normal.”

Chisora earned a split decision win over Kubrat Pulev in July after three previous losses — losing two bouts with Joseph Parker and one with Oleksandr Usyk

Chisora earned a split decision win over Kubrat Pulev in July after three previous losses — losing two bouts with Joseph Parker and one with Oleksandr Usyk

His eldest daughter, Angelina, aged nine, is already picking out her outfit for Saturday. Chisora talks about his family a lot. He says the way he deals with negativity is a lesson to pass on. “If you listen to those who are always complaining or knocking then you will end up as miserable as them,” he says. “I tell my kids, ‘Don’t bother trying to hang out with that girl if she doesn’t want to hang out with you’. Create your own circle. You know how many people are in my circle? One. My motto – ‘fuck them’.”

Any fighter who has taken on a Klitschko, Usyk, Fury twice and top-end fighters like Whyte, Parker and Pulev deserves credit. He has been stopped early only three times, by Fury, Whyte and Haye, and is nothing if not a survivor. He grew up in Zimbabwe – his other daughter is Harare – and attended boarding school before coming to Britain when he was 16. He got in a lot of trouble. “I have had three lives,” he says. “I’ve had the drug-dealing days, the boxing days and my family days.”

He ends up asking himself the question why he still does it. “Do I sound punchy to you?” he replies. “I see everything in my glasses. I don’t care what people want to write.” Then, in the space of two sentences he likens himself to both water and wine. Water because he says he can adapt to any environment. Wine because he insists he is still getting better. If he is to pull off one of the biggest shocks in modern boxing history, he will need a miracle of biblical proportions akin to turning water into wine on Saturday.