Tyson Fury comes out of short-lived retirement to defend the WBC heavyweight championship against familiar foe Dereck Chisora while South Africa’s Kevin Lerena has a shot at greatness as he challenges Daniel Dubois for the WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The challengers are massive underdogs; can they shock the world or will the champions show their class in front of over 50,000 fight fans?
Tyson Fury (1.02) v Dereck Chisora (11.00) (WBC Heavyweight Championship)
Card starts at 8 PM Saturday SA time
When Fury bid boxing goodbye after stopping Dillian Whyte in the sixth round at a sold-out Wembley Stadium in April, few bought it. There are multi-millions left on the table and two blockbuster opponents left for him to conquer.
Chisora’s not one of them.
No, he’s grabbed an opportunity after negotiations for Fury to fight WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua came to nought, as it sadly usually does in the sweet science when it comes to trying to make super-fights between the biggest names in the sport.
Chisora is now the sacrificial lamb of the prodigal son of British boxing’s welcome-back party, which is set to double as a showcase of why the unbeaten “Gypsy King” is the best heavyweight of his generation and one of the greatest boxers of all time.
The challenger already forms part of the champion’s remarkable record of 32 wins – 25 by knockouts – with one draw (the legendary first fight against Deontay Wilder). Two of those wins came over Chisora, the first by decision in 2011 while the second saw the Zimbabwean-born British pugilist being retired by his corner after the 10th in 2014.
Chisora has won 10 of his 17 fights since that second meeting and has an overall record of 33-12 with 23 knockouts. In the first of his last four fights, he went the distance with Usyk in 2020, which Fury has been touting as a victory in defeat of sorts to build Chisora’s credibility as a legitimate threat come Saturday night.
“I rate Chisora as highly as I do Usyk, so I will train like he is the hardest fight in the world,” Fury said in hyping the fight.
“Del Boy” dropped back-to-back decisions to Joseph Parker in 2021 before snapping the three-fight skid with a split-decision win over 41-year-old Kubrat Pulev in July, which earned him the vacant WBA International title and ultimately, this unlikely trilogy bout with Fury.
Time between fights naturally alters the eventual next battle. The seven years since the second fight only stack the deck against Chisora that much more. He’s every bit of 38, four years older than Fury, and significantly slower, making him a sitting duck given the enormous size discrepancy.
The size difference will be an accurate representation of the gulf in skill between the two with 6’9″ Fury set to tower over his 6’1″ foe and have an unheard-of 11-inch reach advantage.
Aside from Chisora slowing down, the other legitimate change that’ll lead to this being a different fight from the first two is Fury’s a different animal since switching to the Kronk style under SugarHill Steward after the draw with Wilder.
Since then, the more aggressive, bully-type style has powered him to three consecutive knockouts – the back-to-back stoppages of Wilder and Whyte last time out – and that trend will continue as “The Gypsy King” puts on a bit of show, sparks Chisora inside the first half of the 12-round fight, calls out Usyk and sends the crowd home with another vintage performance of “American Pie.”
Daniel Dubois (1.08) v Kevin Lerena (7.75) (WBA ‘Regular’ Heavyweight Championship)
It’s the stuff dreams are made of. An opportunity of a lifetime for a kid from Johannesburg whose boxing journey began late but takes him to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend where he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Gerrie Coetzee (WBA), Fransie Botha (IBF) and Corrie Sanders (WBO) by becoming the fourth South African to capture a world heavyweight championship.
The thing about boxing is, dreams can turn into nightmares in a flash. One hammer blow can shatter one’s hopes and jaw and knock you down the mountain you’d been climbing, in Lerena’s case, for 11 years. Dubois represents an Everest-esque challenge for Lerena in their co-featured title tilt. He’s as scary as they come – a big, power puncher who’ll have his partisan home crowd behind him in full voice.
Indeed, this is Lerena’s Rocky 4 moment. Like Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character, he’s a “no hope” underdog going up against a foreign giant in enemy territory. Dubois is a devastating knockout artist. All but one of his 18 wins are by KO and he only has one blemish on his record. He’s gone 3-0 since that lone loss to Joe Joyce in 2020, most recently knocking out Trevor Bryan in the fourth round to become the WBA ‘regular’ champion in July.
Lerena has an excellent record as well. “Two Guns” is 28-1 with 14 knockouts, a former IBO cruiserweight champion and enters the biggest bout of his life on a 17-fight winning streak. The calibre of competition he’s faced isn’t the same as Dubois’ but his latest triumph over Polish powerhouse Mariusz Wach in September indicated he’s ready for the next step.
The remarkable thing about Lerena is he doesn’t have an amateur background, which usually forms a fighter’s foundation. He jumped straight into the pro ranks in 2011, has developed impressive skills and continues to evolve with every fight.
Heavyweight is where the big opportunities and money are, so after defending his IBO cruiserweight title six times, he made the move up at the end of 2020 and is 3-0 in the land of the giants. Such a move carries serious risks but has led to great success as well, with Usyk and Evander Holyfield being prime examples of fighters who reached the pinnacle in both divisions.
What it means for Lerena, who’s 6’1″ (1.85m) and roughly 233 pounds (106kg), is that he has to overcome a serious size disadvantage against Dubois, who stands 6’5″ (1.96m), weighs 242 pounds (110kg) and will have a four-inch reach advantage.
As a smaller heavyweight, Lerena has a speed advantage over his bigger adversaries and uses it to stick and move. His last fight against Wach was an excellent example of what he can and will have to do against Dubois as he pieced up the 6’8″, 269-pound (2.02m, 122kg) Pole over 10 rounds to win a decision.
Aside from speed, the 30-year-old southpaw has world-class head movement and good counter-striking. His power isn’t as prolific at heavyweight as it was at cruiserweight, which means he’ll most likely have to be perfect for the full 12 rounds.
There’s an outside chance, though, that he can get Dubois out of there if he lands flush on the chink in the Brit’s armour, his left orbital bone that Joyce broke and left him with nerve damage.
Patriotism, a big pay out and possible complacency on Dubois’ part make Lerena a decent bet, but the class, size, range and knockout prowess of the local favourite will, unfortunately for Lerena and South African boxing, lead to a successful title defence by knockout.