WHEN Joe Joyce and Derek Chisora were first linked it seemed a natural pairing and a sensible fight to make. It seemed a natural pairing and a sensible fight, one, because Joyce was on the way up and Chisora was on the way down, and two, because both men tended to absorb punishment in the process of trying to win, thus guaranteeing entertainment for fans.

Not only that, when first mooted in 2018, there was a sense that the fight had to happen now, if just because of how, quite cruelly, this ability to entertain fans inevitably leads to either a shock defeat or sudden regression. Concerns in this regard were genuine back then, both for Joyce and Chisora, which is perhaps what makes the idea of the pair now fighting in 2024, six years on, more than just sad. It is sad, no doubt, to see Joyce back to toiling at this kind of level, having previously promised so much, and it is sad for many to see Chisora, 41 later this year, still boxing; boxing, that is, at a level at which he can both accrue decent money and receive a decent amount of life-changing punishment.

For this reason, the announcement of Joyce vs. Chisora taking place on July 27 was widely condemned on Wednesday (May 22), receiving none of the intrigue it would have received had it been announced a few years ago. Some chose to call it pointless; others preferred dangerous. Either way, though, there was certainly no sense that the fight, once a compelling crossroads battle, would do either man, Joyce or Chisora, any good. For Joyce, a win against Chisora won’t even crack the top five wins in his career at this point, whereas for Chisora, a man for whom even defeat is no deterrent, there is a fear that victory, something never out of the question, is at this stage somehow worse for him than suffering a loss.

After all, if Chisora refuses to stop on account of setback, there is every chance that should he win a fight it will only prolong what many have said he shouldn’t be doing at his age: fighting professionally. Then again, to play devil’s advocate, maybe beating Joyce would represent the one big win Chisora, 34-13 (23), now chases. Maybe, should he achieve it, he would at last find some sort of contentment and be able to hang up the gloves and prepare for what we all know will be a far tougher fight for Chisora than even some heavyweight ones of late.

Indeed, just as we know this, so too does Derek Chisora. It is, in fact, likely why he continues. Because for any professional boxer, including Chisora, there is always a danger in retirement for which they are not prepared; a danger far greater than anything they have ever encountered in the ring. Commonly, it is called the unknown, this danger. It waits for them, usually in the empty corridors of fight venues, or out in the car park once all the other cars have disappeared. It remains, for the faded boxer, forever in a state of clearing its throat; preparing to ask the one question the faded boxer would rather not hear: “What next?”

Joe Joyce and Derek Chisora (Stephen Dunkley/Queensberry)

That Chisora has managed to evade its presence for so long is as admirable as it is concerning. He has done so by always delivering entertainment, whether that’s before fights or during fights; victory or defeat. He also reinvented himself at a crucial time, becoming “War” Chisora rather than simply “Del Boy”, and this, coming when it did, was a key development in the Derek Chisora story. In fact, we know now that the sole purpose of rebranding him as “War Chisora” was to have people see his increasing vulnerability as not a cause for concern but instead merely him delivering what he, and his promoter and manager, promised. “It’s in the nickname,” they would say. “He does what it says on the tin.”

In that sense, one could argue Chisora has for a while been exploited by people who should know better. But then of course so many have. He is not the first, he won’t be the last, and at least you can say that Chisora, emerging as he did in the current era, will have been more aware of his exploitation and the part he himself has played in it than his predecessors. This, after all, is a time when boxers have never been more powerful, more switched on, and more in control of their own destiny, or so we are told.

Which is to say, the infantilization of Derek Chisora is probably unnecessary at this point. Right or wrong, he of all people knows exactly what he is doing and he is a man of 40, let’s not forget, therefore able to make his own decisions and bear the consequences, whatever they may be. It is his brain. It is his life. He can do with both whatever he wants.

Moreover, the same people constantly telling him to quit will not be around to entertain Chisora when, in retirement, his empty days seem much longer than they were before. Nor for that matter will they be around when Chisora is unable to recall the better days, the ones only these people who urged him to stop can properly remember. By then, regret is something shared but never mentioned.

“Joe (Joyce) doesn’t go backwards, and I don’t go backwards,” said Chisora on Wednesday. “So, what I’m thinking is that by the time we finish the fight someone is going to have less brain cells left in their brain.”

“Well, I hope that’s not the case,” said Frank Warren, the promoter of Joyce vs. Chisora.

“No, that is the case,” argued Chisora. “Let’s be honest.”

And he is right, too: it is the case. Like it or not, paying to either stage or watch a Derek Chisora fight in 2024 means you are both helping him financially and complicit in his inevitable demise; a paradox enabled by the bizarre cult around him, with every chant of “Ohhhhh Derek Chisora…” serving as both a celebration of his bravery and his mournful exit music.

“I did advise him a while ago to retire,” Warren told Boxing News, “but he doesn’t want to retire. I think this fight, because they are close in age, evens it out. Whatever happens, the loser is really going to struggle to do anything in the future.”

That final comment can be interpreted in a couple of ways, though one would assume Warren meant it only in the context of each boxer’s professional exploits going forward. Regardless, the truth of the matter is this: winning and losing mean the same thing for Derek Chisora in 2024. Lose and he lowers his price, if begrudgingly, and becomes easier for promoters to buy. Win, on the other hand, and any delusion will persist, leading him to yet another fight, yet another payday, and yet another press conference at which his words will be heard not as fighting talk but instead a cry for help.