They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. For Dereck Chisora and David Haye this old adage may no longer ring true. The Sunday papers should have been full of praise for Chisora’s battling, yet, ultimately unsuccessful attempt at dethroning WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. Instead the headlines declared that it was a dark day for British boxing.
The actions of the two British heavyweights caused controversy around the world as they came to blows long after the final bell had sounded. Both men were rightly criticised for their actions with the Daily Mail declaring that boxing should ‘Ban these Thugs’, while the Independent led with ‘Neanderthals land another blow for the noble art’. The duo will ultimately feel the wrath of the British Boxing Board of Control but perhaps one positive can come from the debacle. All of a sudden there is interest in the heavyweight division.
Boxing enthusiasts are well aware that the division is lacking any strength in depth. The Klitschko brothers are the two true world-class fighters in the division, but both are coming towards the end of long and illustrious careers. Before Saturday night’s events I am certain that the general public would never have heard the name Chisora. I appreciate it is not for the right reasons but all of a sudden the boxer from Finchley is on the lips of everyone, from accountants to zoologists.
When was the last time that the public were truly interested in watching an all-British heavyweight clash or even an individual fighter? It certainly wasn’t the non-contest between Haye and former Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison. Nor was there much interest when an out of shape Chisora lost his British crown to Tyson Fury. Lennox Lewis failed to grab the nations hearts, despite his undeniable class inside the ring, while Herbie Hide, also a former world heavyweight champion, struggled to appeal to the average fight fan.
The last man to truly rouse the British public was Frank Bruno. The genial giant was always willing to appear on television smiling and letting out his infectious laugh. His double act with presenter Harry Carpenter and his never say die attitude in the ring made him a national treasure. Bruno may not have possessed the talent of Lewis, or arguably Haye, but his failures on the grandest stage only heightened his appeal. Let’s face it; English fans love nothing more than a heroic failure.
I am certainly not saying that the general public will start a love affair with either Chisora or Haye. Their actions have lauded many to label them nothing more than thugs. But lets not get carried away. Calls for life bans and prison sentences are simply preposterous. There have been so many instances of similar behaviour but none that have attracted the same outrage. Muhammad Ali once put Joe Frazier in a headlock on live television, while Lewis was involved in brawls with both Mike Tyson and Hasim Rahman. All three can be witnessed in the video below, hosted by the inimitable Don King, that celebrates the Top 10 Press Conference Brawls.
Both fighters will face fines and potential bans but what are the odds that the duo will meet in the future. Chisora’s promoter Frank Warren could almost see the pound signs in front of his eyes as his man rushed Haye. Warren had already offered the Hayemaker the chance to fight Chisora in order to land a shot at the older Klitschko brother and he must be loving the amount of media attention his fighter is receiving.
Ultimately it is likely that both men will once again fight for a world title. Chisora may be offered a shot at Wladimir after disrespecting the Ukrainian by spitting water in his face and angering the WBA, WBO and IBF champion. Meanwhile, Haye will feel he has the beating of Vitali after watching him box on the back foot and go 12 rounds for just the fourth time in his long career.
The outrage will soon fade but hopefully the interest will remain. Boxing needs its heavyweight fighters to stir interest, whether through controversy or hopefully sheer talent and ability. As former Telegraph writer Kevin Garside aptly tweeted: “Today's condemnation is tomorrow's jackpot. Look out for Dereck Chisora v David Haye pay per view”.