Despite the grievances and opposition fired toward the Luxembourg sanctioned event from its critics, it has proven a hit with the drama-hungry general public.
Expectations are high after months of tension; fans are desperate to see a vicious, exciting heavyweight fight full of the genuine animosity it has promised.
Now it has to deliver – and the pressure builds as the night nears. Upton Park will be brimming with eager observers, keen to witness the biggest boxing event on British soil for years. Chisora – defiant and reckless – is infamous for his act-now-think-later attitude, and brings an air of trouble wherever he goes.
Famed more his biting, spitting and slapping than his ring finesse, it must be a concern that should the bout not go his way, he will resort to his less-sporting antics. Haye must also feel the weight of the occasion, with just over a year passing since his disappointing loss to Wladimir Klitschko, for which he was heavily lambasted. He is now embroiled in a grudge-match that may still place the winner no closer to a coveted shot at the Ukrainian behemoths, with Vitali mooted to face Manuel Charr before exiting the sport later this year.
Chisora’s brave but unsuccessful performance against Vitali Klitschko in February was largely overshadowed by his rowdy behaviour. The 28-year-old’s consistent use of pressure appeared to tax a faded looking Vitali as their contest wore on. Despite this, the Ukrainian was still victorious that night, and admitted that a shoulder injury had marred his mainly dominant performance. It was the third loss out of the last four of the Finchley prizefighter’s heavyweight excursions.
Durability, at least, has not been a problem for Chisora of late, even if his fitness was visibly lacking when he took on Tyson Fury last year. The Zimbabwe-born boxer is willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone, and is most effective when pressing the action: landing multiple shots with a cumulative, rather than quick-fire knockout effect. He can go the distance and has a solid chin, too – though his power is not that of Haye’s.
The Bermondsey prizefighter is renowned for his explosive and unpredictable style, with 23 of his 25 wins coming via KO. It seems unlikely that Chisora’s in-your-face style will draw Haye into the reckless trading that would suit the robust Finchley man. Haye has fought successfully at British, European and world level, taking on the calibre of opponents that Chisora has often struggled against. We must also remember that Haye took Wladimir’s best shots last July, in a fight many predicted he would not last the distance of.
The 31-year-old lacked his trademark big-punching fearlessness when he faced the younger Ukrainian champion, and has had his vulnerabilities exposed in the past. Some observers feel his chin is the weaker; yet Haye’s experience, athleticism and technical ability should give him the clearer edge over a somewhat predictable Chisora. Whether Haye dispatches his foe within a few rounds, or finds the 28-year-old a tougher task than anticipated, will likely define the response to this fight. Fireworks are what the event has been sold on, but as always in boxing, they cannot be guaranteed.
‘The Hayemaker’ will aim to make a statement with his comeback fight, hoping to remind fans of his fast-paced, thrilling style, rather than the rainy night in Hamburg a year ago, when both he and Wladimir put in cagey performances. The agony of that defeat seemed to have staunched his desire for boxing, but over time the love of competition returned, and he appears newly focused on the task at hand.
Chisora exceeded expectations during his 12 round battle with ‘Dr. Ironfist’, but still appeared leagues below his victorious opponent. After a string of defeats, Haye’s scalp would be one he dearly desires; but is ‘Del Boy’s’ bold persistence enough to challenge the former WBA heavyweight champion?
After its dramatic beginnings, the ‘Licensed to Thrill’ event has big hopes to live up to. If it is the clash of styles fans are hoping for, then it will perhaps be remembered for more than the antics and acrimony that inspired it.