Judgement Day looms for Dereck Chisora at Wembley Arena on Saturday.
The enigmatic Finchley heavyweight has lost his last four title fights –albeit in rarefied company – and knows he simply can’t afford another blip if he’s to cement his standing among the world’s elite.
But the 29 year old former British and Commonwealth king will need to be at his rumbling, raging best if he’s to progress past leading US contender Malik Scott, who remains unbeaten in a 36 fight pro career that spans 13 years.
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To get the lowdown on the unpredictable ‘Del Boy’s’ state of mind and preparation, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up his long standing Nigerian born coach Don Charles.
How do you account for Dereck’s lacklustre performance against Argentine journeyman Hector Avila last time out?
From a coach’s perspective the performance was totally unacceptable. Dereck dropped way below the level that he’d trained at. Though the opposition wasn’t top class, they still need to be beaten but Dereck sunk to Avila’s level. I told him that, if that was how he intended performing in future, I didn’t want to be any part of it. I never want to see a repeat.
That said, you never know what’s going through a fighter’s head. He’d never been stopped before his loss to David Haye. Some are never the same after enduring that experience and Dereck, is a very, very proud man.
When he got to the venue, it dawned that he was no longer top of the bill. He ended up last on, past midnight. He was stuck in the changing rooms for four hours with his wraps on. He felt ridiculed. I could tell he was flat before we even walked to the ring.
He’s an extrovert, a showman, used to big fights and big attention. Rightly or wrongly, he felt as if he didn’t matter any more.
In Dereck’s defence, everyone is entitled to a bad day at the office. It wasn’t pretty but he still won by stoppage.
What issues have you been addressing with Dereck in the interim?
I had to amend his mindset, mental issues. I called an emergency meeting and we had a ‘heart-to-heart’ sat on a park bench. Dereck opened his mind up to me, told me where his head was at.
We discussed whether he needed to take a break. He’s still only 29 years old and, if he took a year out, he’d have plenty of time to resume his career if he chose to do so. I stressed that he’s only half way through his career yet, in terms of financial rewards and size of fights he’s been involved in, he’s already achieved far more than most do in their entire career.
His mother had a similar chat to him. He assured us both that the mental issues he was experiencing had nothing to do with boxing. After evaluating his life, Dereck was adamant that he wanted to carry on (boxing).
Have you identified a noticeable change in his mental state for this camp?
Of course. This time he’s headline again. That’s what he gets up for.
He’s re-ignited the desire that he had when he first started boxing, seriously. I think he realises that he’s still in a great position if he applies himself fully.
Remember, initially Dereck was due to face Deontay Wilder in the middle of June so he’s had well over ten weeks to graft for this. Dereck always trains extremely hard at the gym, that’s never an issue. He only knows one way to prepare. The intensity is always there.
The main problem was his eating habits. He obviously feeds himself privately. But he’s finally listened and started to address the issues. On Saturday, you’ll see the most slim line Dereck Chisora there’s ever been.
He’s also had adequate quality rounds of sparring against guys who fully replicate what Malik Scott is going to bring.
Given his notorious rap sheet, how has Dereck been behaving of late?!
Look, Dereck is a good guy, misunderstood. He’s maturing every day in all aspects, growing up, changing all the time. That said, Dereck is Dereck. He entertains us all. We’d not want him to try to be The Pope. That would take from him as a fighter. He needs to retain a bit of rude boy.
Opponent Malik Scott has a reputation for being avoided by other leading contenders because, firstly, he’s very talented and, secondly, he’s very difficult to look good against. Did you have reservations with regard to accepting him as an opponent for Dereck?
Look, who exactly has been avoiding him? Give me one name. His people go around circulating that he’s avoided and people just buy into it. It’s hearsay!
Okay but what’s your take on Scott as a fighter?
In terms of technical ability, he’s like a middleweight, a very smooth mover with skills galore. He’s very well schooled and throws every shot in the book with speed. I think he probably has the best skills of any opponent that Dereck has ever faced. I’d imagine that it’ll be very hard to win rounds off him by just boxing him.
However, we’ve faced similar to him in Robert Helenius, a very underrated technical boxer. I guarantee that, stylistically, Malik Scott has never faced anything resembling Dereck Chisora.
What type of fight do you envisage on Saturday evening?
If Malik’s given space and allowed to box at his own pace, no doubt he’ll punish us. Trust me, he won’t be.
Win or lose, we make people fight, whether they be Vitali Klitschko, David Haye or Malik Scott. Last time, okay, the opponent just came to spoil and we dipped to his level.
However, I see Saturday’s fight being very exciting. Jesse Reid, Malik’s excellent coach, promises us that Malik can fight as well as box. Brilliant! If Malik stops being a boxer it’s an easy night for us. Dereck can box a little, but he can fight a lot!
Expect Dereck to break his rhythm and overcome him with his pressure and workrate.
What gives you confidence that Dereck is the superior fighter?
We have to respect Malik because complacency and ignorance kills. But while Malik clearly has more experience with regard to rounds boxed he’s kind of levelled off. He’s certainly not mixed in anything like the company which Dereck has.
I’m just not convinced that Malik will be as effective when he steps up to top class, as he has been at the levels below. Against Dereck, he’ll be forced to through combo after combo until he tires. Dereck is the stronger fighter and he’s going to overwhelm him. He’s very up for this.
Clearly this is a ‘must win’ fight for Dereck. Where would it leave him if he were not victorious?
Losing simply isn’t on the menu. I’d hate to think that Saturday could be the end of Dereck Chisora. He’d need to go away and contemplate: ‘Do I really still want to do this?’
On a more positive note, if he triumphs, what direction would you like to see his career take?
When we triumph….not if!
We’d been led to believe we’d have fought David Price if he’d come through the other week. A match against his conqueror, Tony Thompson, certainly wouldn’t be a bad shout.
But we really don’t mind. Dereck has never been choosy or picky as to his opponents. We’ll genuinely step up against any heavyweight in the world.
We place full trust in Frank Warren to deliver the opponents that will get us back up to challenging for world honours.