THE latest installment in the series ‘Rematches You Didn’t Want to See but You’re Going to Get Anyway’ will feature series regular Dereck Chisora taking on 2016 opponent Kubrat Pulev at London’s O2 Arena on July 9.
The fight, as the series title suggests, is something of a leftfield choice but will presumably go ahead for two reasons: one, because Chisora retains some pulling power with British fans, and two, because Pulev was a couple of years ago seen sharing a British ring with Anthony Joshua. It is, in that sense, very much your prototypical 2022 fight; one arranged more for reasons pertaining to fading name value than anything to do with competition, prestige, or demand.
“I’m delighted to get this fight over the line,” said Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn. “Initially we worked on some other opponents for Derek, but this fight came out of nowhere a few days ago and I absolutely love it. I think the strapline, ‘Total Carnage’, is absolutely perfect for this fight, in terms of the build-up and in terms of the fight itself. Expect the unexpected but expect a thriller at The O2 on July 9.”
Six years ago, Chisora and Pulev met for the first time in Hamburg, Germany, where both heavyweights struggled to instigate much in the way of action throughout the 12 rounds they spent in one another’s company. That night, it was Pulev who ultimately came out on top, winning a 12-round decision to lift the vacant European heavyweight title. However, given the nature of the fight, both in terms of action and competitiveness, few would have expected the two to ever meet again, not immediately, nor six years down the line.
And yet, here we are.
Due, perhaps, to the need to keep milking the Cult of Chisora until all that remains are particles or fumes, the two will again collide in July, with Chisora now 38 and Pulev 41.
Since their initial dalliance in Hamburg, Pulev has beaten men like Samuel Peter, Hughie Fury and Bodgan Dinu, and has lost to only Anthony Joshua in 2020. He produced a spirited display against Joshua that night in London, giving him one or two things to think about, but was, as expected, eventually brushed aside in the ninth round of a WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight title fight. That resulted in Pulev, 29-2 (14), sitting out the entirety of 2021, having bagged a career-high payday, and his only fight so far in 2022 was a 10-round decision win against Jerry Forrest in May.
Chisora, meanwhile, has endured a rougher time since losing against Pulev, though has tested himself regularly and, even in defeat, given his all. Now a fan favourite, the Londoner’s career resurgence – admittedly, more so as a money-maker than title-winner – has been bolstered by fights against Oleksandr Usyk, whom he pushed hard for four rounds before being dominated and outpointed, Joseph Parker (twice), and Carlos Takam, whom he stopped in the sixth round of a minor classic. He has also shared a couple of thrillers with Dillian Whyte, albeit coming up short in both.
At 32-12 (23), Chisora is clearly now a man whose days as a leading contender or world title challenger are at an end, but that doesn’t mean he sees his career ending anytime soon. On the contrary, what is apparent in 2022 is that Chisora’s name still carries weight, at least at this kind of C-level, and that even in the midst of a run of defeats there remains a demand – if gradually waning – to see him trudge after opponents, huff and puff, and do his best.
Matched sensibly and he should be okay. He could even win this rematch against Pulev and level the score, leading to – gulp – a third fight between the pair later this year. More likely is it, however, that Pulev, at 41, and with defeats only to Joshua and the great Wladimir Klitschko, still knows enough to manoeuvre his way around the wayward swings of the slower Chisora. Even more likely is it that the event’s title – Total Carnage – ends up carrying a great relevance to the pre-fight build-up – and, for that matter, the state of the heavyweight division – than the fight itself.