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Grimy Grudge Match

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Heavyweight boxers David Haye and Dereck Chisora have been trying to get at each other for weeks now—on July 14, they will get their chance at West Ham’s Upton Park football ground in London. A crowd of 40,000 is expected, the biggest in Britain since Ricky Hatton beat Juan Lazcano in May 2008.

Both fighters will be unlicensed and angry; neither will earn any boxing ranking points from the fight—merely the grim satisfaction of winning what promises to resemble a street brawl. The British Board of Boxing Control has banned Chisora from fighting; Haye’s license has expired.

The first round of this street brawl was fought out on television, before a bewildered boxing world, at a press conference following Chisora’s loss to Vitali Klitschko for the World Boxing Council heavyweight title, in February at the Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany.

Was it real or staged? Many wondered. What is clear is that the two British boxers don’t like each other and it all boiled over in Munich.

It was the stuff the tabloids dream of. The Klitschkos’ manager, Bernd Boente, announced that no more British boxers would be given the right to challenge the world heavyweight champions, Vitali and Wladimir. This was a reaction to Chisora’s unbecoming behavior—to say the

least—before the fight.

First, Chisora slapped Vitali at the weigh-in. Then he spat on his younger brother, Wladimir, just before the fight.

After the fight it got worse. Haye, who had lost to Wladimir a few months earlier, was in the crowd of journalists at the post-fight conference. He objected to Boente’s statement about British boxers and demanded a rematch.

Sensing that Haye was stealing the show, Chisora responded by charging off the stage to attack Haye, verbally and physically. A brawl ensued amid the chaos of tumbling journalists, cameras and flying fists; Haye swung a camera tripod at Chisora. In the confusion, Chisora claimed he was glassed and said that he would either shoot Haye or hunt him down, or both. The German authorities detained 28-year-old Chisora and the British Board of Boxing Control banned him.

Chisora’s father, Paul, a contracts manager at a fireplace manufacturing company in Harare, was quoted in the Zimbabwean newspapers as saying: “If it was me, I could have kept my cool. He is still growing up and did not have anyone older who could restrain him.”

The two camps fixed the fight for July and persuaded the boxing federation of the small European nation of Luxembourg to sanction it because no one else would. This will be the first time a fight will be held in Britain, licensed by a foreign federation. The disgusted Luxembourg government withdrew its subsidies from the federation in protest.

It is a big story swirling around a young man from Zimbabwe. Chisora was born and bred in Harare and left for Britain to join his mother in 1999. He fights out of Finchley—Margaret Thatcher’s old constituency—and is a naturalized Briton with an accent more cockney than Shona.

Chisora fought 20 times as an amateur, before turning professional in 2007. Before he was banned, he was ranked 13th in the world heavyweight division, notching up 15 wins in 18 fights, with nine knock-outs. His winning streak of eight fights ended with the boxing authorities suspending Chisora for four months for biting journeyman boxer Paul Butlin in a heavyweight clash at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, London. As a result, he missed a fight for the British Heavyweight title against Danny Williams in 2009. He would defeat Williams a year later to become the British champion.

What irked Chisora was that Haye was given the opportunity to challenge for the world title first. Haye went on to lose to Wladimir in a poor showing after declaring that he would knock out both the Klitschko brothers in one night. Haye later claimed that he went into the fight with a broken toe.

By the way, Chisora went to Churchill Boys High School in

Harare—its mascot is a bulldog. Its spirit follows him still.

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