The prospect of interviewing Derek Chisora presents a similar conundrum to the prospect of fighting him, though admittedly with significantly lower stakes. Because, whether preparing to trade punches or trade words with the heavyweight, there is the distinct possibility of being dragged into a brawl with the Briton.
Chisora has seen it all in the ring and heard it all outside of it, but treading the line between leaving the veteran disengaged and engaging him too directly is more of a dilemma for those combating the 38-year-old with questions instead of with uppercuts.
In contrast, there is little chance of Chisora’s in-ring opponents encountering a disinterested “Del Boy”; Chisora, who now prefers the nickname “War”, lives to box and possesses the purest proclivity for pugilism.
Still, the feeling-out process when speaking to Chisora mirrors the early rounds of a bout, with jabs seeming to represent the wisest form of entry. So, before approaching the obvious topic of whether Saturday’s rematch with Kubrat Pulev will – maybe should – mark the end of Chisora’s long, captivating career, we start at the beginning.
Chisora grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to London, where he takes to the O2 Arena this weekend and will attempt to avenge a 2016 decision defeat by Pulev.
“Great memories, none bad,” he reflects on his time in Zimbabwe. “Everything was great. I lived a very happy lifestyle, stress-free.”
It has been written that Chisora was a paramedic for his school’s sports teams, a suggestion that he laughs off.
“Don’t listen to that, it was first aid! Let me tell you something, paramedics in Africa, bro… If you’re injured on the pitch, somebody will run over there, give you some water, give you a slice of orange, and then tell you: ‘Run it off, boy, jog it off.’ They’ll just give you sugar, ‘Maybe your sugar’s low.’”
Chisora’s last three bouts have all gone the distance and ended in defeat, while Pulev’s most recent outing was a points win in May, but the consensus is that Saturday’s clash will be determined by a sure-fire stoppage. The loser will likely need more than orange slices to recover. If Chisora is to be beaten by the Bulgarian again, a knockout is something the Briton is not only prepared for but – in a strange sense – welcomes.
“In boxing, getting knocked out is better than losing on points,” Chisora insists. “When Dillian Whyte knocked me out when I was winning the fight, I didn’t complain, because I got knocked the f*** out and that was it. Bon voyage. What’s next? [After a decision loss], there’s always: ‘Ah, I wish I did this…’ But when you get knocked out, that’s it.”
Chisora’s professional record stands at 32-12 with 23 knockout wins and three stoppage defeats. Although the 38-year-old survived 24 rounds with Joseph Parker in his last two fights and 12 with Oleksandr Usyk before that, Chisora came up short on each occasion and the damage has been accumulating.
It is not something he worries about, however. As the jabbing questions turn into straights and hooks, Chisora suggests he will carry on fighting regardless of how his rematch with Pulev plays out.
“There’s damage when you go out your door, bro, there’s damage when you go to school or anywhere,” he says. “You don’t know what’s gonna happen. Take a leap of faith and just live life.”
In fact, Chisora has not even entertained the thought of retiring.
“Na, na. Nope. Don’t wanna think about that. Sad stories. Na. Thinking about it… If my wife leaves me today, what am I gonna do? Am I gonna find another one? For now, no,” he says in one of his trademark metaphors. It is one of the less crass ones. “I love boxing, that’s it. Point blank, I enjoy it so much. I love everything about it: the training, the fighting, the promotion.”
It wasn’t always that way for Chisora, though, as becomes clear in flashing back to the start of his journey in the sport – a journey that began in London as a teenager.
“I didn’t know anything about boxing, nothing,” he says. “I went to this amateur boxing gym. I hated it, but I kept going back. I don’t know why… I hated it, just f***ing… too cold, and nasty. There were a bunch of white guys – racist guys, skinheads – but like three, four black guys. We didn’t really care to be honest with you.
“The problem with boxing is: Once you get into it, it’s hard to leave the game. It don’t matter what age group you are; the moment you start until the end of your life, you’re still in boxing. It’s one of the hardest sports to join and leave. It’s hard.”
That is evidenced by Chisora and his willingness – determination even – to march on, just as he will do against Pulev on Saturday. That is Chisora’s only guarantee; he makes no promises about the result and – in the closest we get to brawling – almost seems offended to be asked for a prediction.
“If I knew, I’d be playing the lottery right now. It’s £175million. What’s wrong with you, man? I wish I could tell you that! We can all play the lottery, we can all place bets.”
Chisora may not be playing the lottery, but heavyweight boxing is gambling, and that is how the Briton will spend his Saturday night in London. Bet on a brawl.