At the customary stare down following the weigh-in for their heavyweight title tilt, Dereck Chisora unexpectedly slapped Vitali Klitschko across the face with his right hand.
Chisora, of London, England, backed up his bravado with a spirited performance, losing by scores of 118-110 (twice) and 119-111, scores which didn’t truly represent the fight.
Many observers thought Klitschko, who retained his WBC heavyweight title on Saturday before a sold-out crowd at the Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany, his adopted nation, received a stern challenge from the brash Brit.
“It was a perfect performance from Chisora,” said Klitschko, THE RING’s No. 1-rated heavyweight. “It was a good fight, he pressured me. It was very difficult to hit him. I wanted to knock him out very much.
“He was in good condition for 12 rounds. I saw every punch from him though, he was a bit slow. If he was faster I would have had a problem.”
Chisora, 28, ruffled many feathers prior to the bout, including spitting water in the face of Klitschko’s brother Wladimir in the ring before the bout, but was gracious in defeat, pointing to inexperience as the key factor in his loss.
“The only thing that beat me was experience, I came to fight,” said Chisora (15-4, 9 knockouts). “Experience beat me. I couldn’t really let some of my shots go, I forgot to jab. I wasn’t really looking for big shots. I was looking to work inside. He won the fight fair enough.”
It was only the fourth time the 40-year-old Ukrainian had to go the 12-round distance. His last time out, he bludgeoned Tomas Adamek en route to a 10th-round TKO victory that was broadcast on HBO in the U.S. This bout, which was televised on Epix in the U.S. and carried on BoxNation in the UK, was very different.
Chisora stated before the fight that he would not fight scared like so many Klitschko opponents, and he kept his word, taking the fight to the 6-foot-7 titleholder at the onset, slipping hooks as he attempted work on the inside. Klitschko (44-2, 40 KOs) dispensed with straight rights and left hook leads, abandoning his trademark piston-like jab.
Chisora, who weighed in at 241.2 pounds (the second lightest of his career), applied constant pressure, often marching through punches, but it was Klitschko who took the early rounds.
Chisora came on in the middle rounds, adding connecting power shots to his constant pressure. Klitschko, who weighed in at 243.6 pounds, seemed to have trouble with Chisora’s awkward style and effective aggression, as he struggled to establish the proper distance to fire his vaunted jab.
Chisora, who turned pro late at the age of 24, effectively used a peek-a-boo defense, his gloves tight at his ears, to get in close range of Klitschko. He landed a hard right to the body in round six, a blow that stopped Klitschko in his tracks.
Round seven was a tremendous round, which featured both fighters landing hard shots.
However, the 6-foot-1 ½ challenger faded down the stretch as Klitschko retained his punch output, a major factor in his continuing his dominance (along with young borther Wladimir, THE RING champ) over the heavyweight division.
Chisora, a native of Zimbabwe, landed 130 of 288 power punches, a 45 percent clip, while Vitali landed 154 of 347, good for 44 percent.
Klitschko could meet former WBA heavyweight beltholder David Haye, who lost his title to Wladimir last year, this summer. Negotiations have been on-and-off between the pair.
Chisora’s future is uncertain, but his career has never been better despite going 1-3 in his last four bouts. He was an after-thought going into his fight with Robert Helenius last December because he coming off a loss to fellow Englishman Tyson Fury. However, Chisora came in shape for Helenius and impressed, losing on the cards though the decision was widely-regarded as one of the worst in recent memory.
It was that performance that earned him the title challenge with Klitschko.
With another great performance in a losing effort, Chisora is bound to receive another opportunity in a division devoid of talent – and he probable picked up quite a few fans along the way.
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger