Chisora faces Joseph Parker in rematch on Saturday – and the 38-year-old Briton says the sport still fires his competitive juices
“Tell me someone who has retired from boxing and left and never came back,” grunts Derek Chisora, pulling his Union flag bandana over his chin, mouth and nose. “Show me that b—–d and I’ll follow his rules.”
We are sitting in Wortley Hall, just outside Sheffield, where Chisora has been training under Dave Coldwell for his rematch with New Zealander Joseph Parker on Saturday night in Manchester. It is a fight that with victory, will bring greater paydays.
Chisora is 38 now but chiselled, and as talkative as ever. He is certainly not giving off the vibe of a man who is about to call time on his career.
“Ricky Hatton retired and a couple of weeks later opened a gym. They all do it. Tony Bellew said he hated boxing, he’s still in it, David Haye, he wants more. They come back in through the back door. You can’t retire. It’s the biggest drug in the whole world. Even Floyd Mayweather, the richest man in the game, is still in boxing.
“If I retire from boxing I will set fire to everything I have from boxing – gloves, things I’ve won – on a bonfire night. The only time we do retire is when we’re six feet under and even then I’ll still probably be shadow-boxing.”
Chisora is superb company, and still enjoys holding court. From relating tales growing up in Zimbabwe – he enjoyed carrying first-aid kit to rugby matches at Churchill Boys School, a private school in Harare – to coming to the UK as a 13-year-old with his mother, few British boxers have had such a tumultuous life.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday. I came out of Gatwick and it just hit me. It was cold. I said, ‘Mum, it’s cold.’ She said: ‘Don’t worry it’s going to warm up.’ I said, ‘no it’s not’ and I ran back inside and told her to buy me another jacket. I was freezing. Then we passed through McDonald’s. I think I ate four Big Mac meals, I was so excited. I was like, damn, this is the lifestyle. From then on I didn’t stop eating. I just became fat.”
London had a profound impact on the teenager – not all positive. Having settled in Finchley, Chisora became embroiled in trouble with local gangs and soon became known to the local constabulary.
Chisora is not proud of the decisions he made back then, but insists their legacy has been curiously positive.
“If I didn’t have those memories, I would not be the man I am today. I got arrested so many times. Petty stuff. It made me understand life and be humble instead of just being aggressive with others. I talk to everybody. My oldest daughter hates going out with me because daddy talks to everybody.
“Most young black men in the United Kingdom have gone a bad route until they have someone in their life to say do this or do that. I was going down a bad route. So many incidents happened when I came here, where people robbed me or shot my car. Fights. But I think God is still saving me for a simple reason. ”
‘I have to tone it down a bit now’
Boxing, as is so often the case with troubled young men, offered a way out.
“My probation officer signed me up and for the first year the Metropolitan Police paid for my lessons and bought me my first boxing gloves and boots,” Chisora recalls, with a laugh. “Thanks very much. Look at me now.”
Chisora may still be prone to the odd eccentric outburst – his pre-fight press conference on Thursday saw him refuse to answer questions, and refuse to take off his headphones – but he is far removed from the man whose violently erratic behaviour risked him becoming an outcast in the sport.
At one point in our conversation, he shares pictures of his two beautiful young daughters, and his magnificent – and magnificently pink – home in Mill Hill. Age, and fatherhood, have softened and matured the man and the fighter.
“When you have kids it changes you big time,” he acknowledges. “Especially when you have girls. I never thought I’d live in a pink house but now I’m debating whether to paint the whole house pink.
“It’s difficult now because my daughter Googles her daddy. That’s the problem with these bloody private schools. She comes home and says: ‘I Googled you today. I see you flipped up a table.’ I’m like, wow. I have to tone it down a bit now.”
Boxing as an industry has lost some of its allure – “sometimes I hate it – it’s very conniving”, he says – but the sport still fires his competitive juices. He still seeks trilogy fights with Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte.
“I really like Tyson, he’s a good character in the game, a very intelligent man, his family’s amazing – I messaged him when his baby was born. So I’d have that one with Tyson and have another with Dillian.
“I’d definitely have a second one with David Haye. The way I look at boxing is it’s a bunch of lions, all seeking something. But after all is said and done, we can all sit down in the same room and break bread together.”
Without question, Chisora now appreciates the love he gets from the fans for his battling, ebullient style which renders the 11 defeats in his 43-fight career irrelevant. Indeed, the passage of time has actually seen him become fitter and more ferocious as a fighter, with his popularity soaring as a result.
“The boos have turned into cheers, and I appreciate it. Who have we got who is box office here? AJ, myself, Dillian and Tyson Fury. Other heavyweights can be that but they don’t just give it to you. You put bums on seats and get people to love you. If you don’t have people loving you, you won’t pull in the money.
“It means a lot because those people are paying to watch me fight. It means a lot to me if somebody goes out at six o clock in the morning, does his big shift, gets his overtime pay, and then pays his money to watch me fight. That’s what counts in my view, not world titles.”
The full ‘Off The Cuff’ interview with Derek Chisora can be watched on the DAZN platform and app.