Somehow, against the odds, defying all fears, Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte, sworn enemies from either side of the Thames, produced a memorable heavyweight contest of considerable nobility to wipe away the rancour that had poisoned not only their relationship but the sport.
The split decision after 12 rounds of high-grade brawling, went the way of the younger, fitter Whyte, 114-115, 115-113, 115-114, because he kept his shape in the key exchanges, but Chisora, an oak that would not be cut down, won the Manchester crowd over with possibly his bravest performance in 33 contests. They may even do this again; if they can just find a table around which to negotiate that is also nailed to the floor.
Whyte’s British title was not on the line because of his part in their fracas at a press conference, but, curiously – or not; this is boxing – the bout was declared an eliminator for the WBC title owned by Deontay Wilder. On a night that entertained all sizes, theirs was probably the most dramatic: two big, hard men swinging from the hip with nary a nod towards the consequences.
In a long queue of contenders and dreamers for a shot at a version of the world title, Chisora and Whyte are near the back but maybe edging their way towards the front. Chisora threw no tables this time, but quite a lot of quality shots in a lively, even opening. Injured pride, perhaps – after taking a two-year suspended sentence and a £25,000 fine for furniture rearrangement – put steel in his work as he battered Whyte in the fifth. Battling fatigue, he had him going again in the eighth, and kept his cool when Whyte gave him some afters.
From there to the closing bell, theirs was a mutual blur of desperation, as one haymaker after another whistled through the night air, many landing with full force. Neither man would go down, though. Cue the rematch.
Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, the unbeaten 37-year-old Cuban with the tools and experience to make a dent in the heavyweight division, took seven rounds of the scheduled eight to quell the enthusiasm of Doncaster’s exhausted David Allen. It was Ortiz’s 26th win, 24th early (with two no-contests) and it kept him in the mix for bigger things.
Callum Smith has cemented a world title shot, having idled as a mandatory WBC contender at 12st for longer than he would like, and should meet the winner of the James DeGale-Badou Jack unification fight, to be held in Brooklyn next month, some time in the summer.
The unbeaten Liverpudlian had Luke Blackledge down and dazed in the third, and again in the eighth. But the Lancastrian, inordinately strong and willing, was knocked cold when he ran on to a perfect left hook in the 10th.
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