JUST over 18 months after they were originally scheduled to collide, heavyweights Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker are set to do battle at Manchester Arena this Saturday (May 1) – atop a pay-per-view card, no less. As the headline acts on a Sky Sports Box Office bill in the UK (DAZN televise in the US), the pressure is on Derek Chisora vs Joseph Parker to deliver, especially considering the criticism that has come Matchroom’s way for deeming this event PPV-worthy. But for the two chief protagonists, this commercial pressure pales in comparison to the competitive pressure that they find themselves under. Simply put, they are fighting to remain relevant at the top end of the heavyweight division. The severe consequences of a defeat are not lost on Parker.
“I’m well aware that a win on British soil and on worldwide television will put me in pole position, whereas a loss will be catastrophic,” the New Zealander acknowledged. “Chisora and I have unfinished business and only one of us will get the job done. I’m more than up for the challenge – bring it on.”
Ahead of this crucial contest, Parker has linked up with a new trainer in the shape of former WBO middleweight belt-holder Andy Lee – an astute boxing mind with a burgeoning reputation as a coach. With Lee being a key member of Tyson Fury’s training team, Parker has been able to benefit from having the heavyweight supremo in his camp. Speaking about his recently formed partnership with Lee, the Aucklander said: “I’m excited to start this new chapter in my career with some fresh ideas. I’ve settled in and Andy and I are bonding well.”
Like Parker, Chisora has also decided to make a change to his coaching set-up in recent weeks. This bout will be his first fight under the stewardship of respected trainer Buddy McGirt, whose exploits as a fighter saw him gain induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2019. Commenting on his link-up with McGirt, the Zimbabwe-born Londoner remarked that he is “building on the team and preparing for war.”
Although Chisora went on to stop late substitute David Price after Parker pulled out of their clash in October 2019, the Finchley veteran has not forgotten about the 29-year-old’s withdrawal, which was attributed to illness brought on by a spider bite.
“We’ve been here before,” Chisora stated. “In 2019 I flew to Vegas to film the Face to Face [YouTube show] with Parker. I called [manager] David Haye as soon as I left and told him, ‘This guy isn’t going to get in the ring with me’ – I could see the fear in his eyes. Now, second time around, I hope he fights. I’m looking forward to it and I cannot wait to get back in the ring. I love fighting – it’s what I love the most.”
Despite having been a professional for more than 14 years, Chisora, 32-10 (23), has proved through his impressive performances over the past three years that his passion for the sport is as strong as ever. Typically regarded as an enigmatic and controversial character, the 37-year-old’s desire and motivation has come into question in the past, but he has achieved a level of consistency in his last seven outings and has looked anything but disinterested.
Six months ago when being outpointed by the excellent Oleksandr Usyk, Chisora gave a good account of himself and made it an uncomfortable night at times for his acclaimed adversary. With his energy-sapping body blows and brute force, he showed that a fit and focused Derek Chisora still poses a threat, even in the twilight of his career. The Indian summer he is enjoying, in conjunction with his larger-than-life persona, has seen his popularity reach an all-time high.
Parker too is a popular figure with fans, thanks to his humorous social media videos throughout the coronavirus lockdown, which were intended to bring some light-hearted joy during a hugely difficult period. It was therefore a surprise when stories surfaced in the press in March, with Parker being the subject of some serious allegations regarding drug importation – claims that he vehemently denies. The reports will have come as an unwelcome distraction from his preparation for such a pivotal matchup.
Battling a Brit on away turf will not faze Parker, as he has previously done so on three occasions. In the space of 10 months from 2017 to 2018, the 6ft 4in Kiwi went 12 rounds with Hughie Fury, Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte. He beat Fury but was defeated by Joshua and Whyte, who is the only man to have ever knocked him down.
Since the Whyte reverse, Parker, 28-2 (21), has won four out of four, including an uninspiring verdict over old amateur rival Junior Fa at the end of February. Styles failed to gel in what was an ugly, disjointed fight, with the awkward Fa happy to assume the role of spoiler. As sluggish as Parker’s showing was, at least he was able to shed some rust.
Among Chisora and Parker’s common opponents are a couple of notable names in Whyte and Carlos Takam. Chisora and Whyte engaged in a pair of closely contested, all-action scraps – the first in late 2016 and the second two years after. Whyte prevailed on points in the initial meeting, then claimed a brutal KO in the closing stages of the rematch.
Takam made his presence felt against Chisora and Parker, yet was beaten by both. Five years ago, Takam forced Parker to work hard for a victory on the scorecards, before taking on Chisora a couple of years later. Chisora had to withstand some heavy onslaughts, but he gutted it out and turned the bout on its head with a shattering stoppage.
The Whyte fights and the Takam contest were particularly punishing wars for Chisora, who has been in several physically exacting encounters (see his losses to Tyson Fury x2, Vitali Klitschko and Haye). As well as being the younger of the two by eight years, Parker is also much fresher than Chisora. While “Del Boy” has suffered three inside-the-distance defeats, Parker’s only setbacks have come over the long route.
Vastly seasoned against high-quality opposition, Chisora is an ex-British, Commonwealth and European champion who has also challenged for the WBC title. A stocky 6ft 1 1/2in come-forward brawler, he uses his bulky physique to bully his foes up close. Willing to take punches in order to land his own, he does the 12 rounds well and is able to soak up significant punishment. His booming overhand rights and clubbing hooks are dangerous weapons.
A previous owner of the WBO belt – which he earned by edging past Andy Ruiz Jnr on a debatable decision at the close of 2016 – Parker, at his best, is a composed and clever mover who nimbly bounces on his toes and snaps out accurate jabs to head and body. Boasting a varied shot selection and busy fists, he has fast hands and feet for a man of his size. Known for his toughness and solid chin, he likes to unleash jolting uppercuts, though he can be caught himself.
Going by their most recent displays, the impetus is arguably with Chisora, who is coming off a ‘good loss’, whereas Parker is coming off a ‘bad win’. However, buoyed by a fresh start under a promising young coach, expect Parker to regain some form and momentum by outscoring the battle-scarred Chisora over 12 hard-fought rounds.
The chief support sees Irish icon Katie Taylor, 17-0 (6), put her undisputed lightweight crown on the line for a third time. Challenging the female pound-for-pound No. 1 over 10-twos is Liverpudlian southpaw Natasha Jonas, 9-1-1 (7).
The duo memorably met as amateurs in the quarter-finals of the 2012 Olympic Games, where Taylor triumphed on points en route to winning the competition. The Bray sensation has since gone on to thrive in the pros, where she has reigned supreme in the 135lb division, in addition to securing a WBO strap at 140lbs.
Taylor, 34, recorded a brace of verdict victories in the second half of 2020. She overcame fierce nemesis Delfine Persoon for a second time in what was another gruelling tussle, prior to thoroughly dominating the gutsy Miriam Gutierrez. Jonas, meanwhile, combined with WBC super-featherweight titlist Terri Harper to produce a thrilling fight last summer, which ended in a draw.
Jonas’ sole reverse came via upset stoppage against Viviane Obenauf just under three years ago, whom Taylor, in only her second pro bout, had previously widely outpointed.
Two years older than Taylor and three inches taller, Jonas is a skilled boxer who supplements long jabs with quick and forceful left crosses. But Taylor is a generational talent in the world of women’s boxing. With her scintillating speed, unerring accuracy and furious flurries, she can conquer Jonas on the cards.
After unseating Shakan Pitters from the British light-heavyweight throne with an eye-catching stoppage at the end of last year, a major step up in class is next on the agenda for Craig Richards, 16-1-1 (9). Opposing the rangy Crystal Palace resident in a 12-rounder is the Saint Petersburg-based Dmitry Bivol, 17-0 (11), who holds the WBA 175lb title.
Having been out of action for 19 months, Bivol will be keen to impress on his UK debut. An intelligent marksman who propels his punches with precision and spite, the Kyrgyz-Russian has scalped the likes of Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jnr. The spirited Richards will give it all that he has got, but the pick is for Bivol to break him down with hurtful jabs and hooks for an inside-schedule success.
With ring legend Roy Jones Jnr in his corner and Team Sauerland guiding him behind the scenes, Chris Eubank Jnr, 29-2 (22), is aiming for a big 2021. The super-confident Brighton middleweight kicks off his year with a 10-round contest against Manchester’s Marcus Morrison, 23-3 (16), who, like Richards, is a considerable underdog.
Neither man has made an appearance for close to a year-and-a-half, but Eubank’s pedigree far surpasses that of his opponent. A former British champ at 160lbs and WBA title challenger at 168lbs, Junior will be striving to make a statement. Morrison is tough and game, but Eubank’s ferocious salvoes can see him become the first fighter to stop the gritty Mancunian.
Exciting Belfast banger James Tennyson, 28-3 (24), is searching for a seventh successive win inside time when he meets Mexico City portsider Jovanni Straffon, 23-3-1 (16), over 12.
A previous British boss at lightweight, and Commonwealth and European ruler at super-featherweight, Tennyson also boxed for an IBF belt at super-feather, but is now settled at 135lbs. Taking into account that two of Straffon’s three matches outside of Mexico have resulted in defeat, Tennyson is favoured to continue his streak of early triumphs. bn
The Verdict An intriguing main event, but the undercard is not as evenly matched.