British heavyweight star Dereck Chisora had every reason to be deflated at the end of 2012. The enigmatic Londoner was coming off three back-to-back defeats to Robert Helenius, Vitali Klitschko and David Haye, and the chances of a career resurgence looked bleak.
It was crisis time and the situation was more than frustrating for the Chisora camp, because there are those who feel the talented pressure fighter has all the attributes required to fulfill his potential and capture a heavyweight title.
Early last year the decision was made to roll the dice one more time and Chisora has rebounded in style to post four successive knockout wins against Hector Avila, Malik Scott, Edmund Gerber and Ondrej Pala.
“I’m on good form at the moment,” said Chisora. “The first fight with Avila wasn’t great, but from there I went back to the drawing board and did what was best for Dereck Chisora. Basically, my team and I are excited about the future and we’ve been training very hard.
“When I’m motivated I enjoy the game a lot more. I’ve been working seriously on my fitness and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
On Saturday Chisora (19-4, 13 knockouts) returns against American veteran Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson, and this time there’s more on the line than simply winning or losing. A victory will be the first step towards securing a rematch with the man who handed him his first career loss back in 2011 – Tyson Fury.
Yes, the return fight is all but set in stone and, in another interesting wrinkle, Fury also owns a unanimous decision over Johnson. Is Chisora focused on trumping his rival’s December 2012 performance?
“I’m not thinking about doing better than Tyson did,” said Chisora. “I’m looking to box a smart fight, enjoy myself out there and do what I want to do. After I’ve dealt with Johnson I’ll be moving on to bigger things.”
Fury shares top billing with Chisora in London and is expected to make easy work of the undistinguished Joey Abell. The 10-round bout will be Fury's first since April of last year and this stretch of inactivity is, by far, the longest of his career.
“Tyson is the type of the guy who trains all the time,” said Chisora. “Even when he’s not boxing he’ll be around the gym. I think it will be a great rematch and neither of us will let people down when it comes off.
“In the first fight I came in at 260 pounds, but the next time I’ll be a lot lighter (Chisora has averaged 240 in his last four bouts). Everything in regards to a second fight with Tyson is going to plan.”
The goal for both men is a world title shot. Chisora, like Johnson, went 12 rounds in a losing effort to Vitali Klitschko, for the WBC strap, whereas Fury has yet to engage in a championship fight.
The prize if Chisora were to avenge his defeat to Fury, this summer, could be a mandatory position with the WBO and subsequently a second world-title shot against Wladimir Klitschko.
Chisora said, “Realistically the only fight out there for Wladimir is the winner of me and Tyson Fury. Still, all that’s on my mind right now is Kevin Johnson. That’s the fight I’m looking forward to and I’m confident.”
The one thing Chisora has had in common with Tyson Fury was an intense dislike for David Haye. That bad blood has been cleansed, but what are Chisora’s feelings towards Fury?
“It’s just business between me and Tyson” said the reigning European champion. “Why shouldn’t it be? We’re both fighters and this is what we do for a living.”
First things first, and Chisora has one very experienced foe to dispose of on Saturday night.
“No predictions, just tune in. You’re gonna love it.”
British fight fans can see Chisora vs. Johnson and Fury vs. Abell Live and Exclusive on BoxNation via Sky Channel 437/ HD 449 or Virgin Channel 546 from 7.00pm. Visit www.boxnation.com to subscribe.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
Photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images