David Haye (25-2) and Dereck Chisora (15-3) clash this weekend in the biggest British heavyweight match in decades (1993's Lewis-Bruno was the last British heavyweight fight of this magnitude). The two fighters had an impromptu row at a press conference earlier this year in Germany. From that moment forward, the bad blood between the two hasn't subsided.
Despite officially losing three of his last four fights, Chisora enters the match riding a wave of momentum. He was robbed against the heralded prospect Robert Helenius and he provided Vitali Klitschko with his most competitive fight in years. Haye has been out of the ring for a year after his uncompetitive loss to Wladimir Klitschko. Having previously announced his retirement, Haye has instead decided to return to the ring for this 10-round matchup for British heavyweight supremacy. Read below for the keys to the fight. My official prediction will be at the end of the piece.
1. Haye can box, but can Chisora?
Both fighters can bang. Haye was a destroyer at cruiserweight and although his power hasn't fully carried into the heavyweight division, he can still cause damage. Chisora doesn't get many knockouts but he is heavy-handed. Part of his difficulty in stopping opponents is his balance. He wings shots from such irregular angles that he isn't in position to put opponents away. Nevertheless, he certainly has the physical tools to hurt Haye.
However, Haye also has solid technical boxing skills. As he demonstrated against Nikolay Valuev, he certainly has the foot speed, discipline and technique to fight from the outside against less-mobile heavyweights. Chisora will most likely charge forward, trying to compensate for his smallish reach and his lack of refined boxing ability. If Haye keeps the fight on the outside and uses his legs to control distance, how will Chisora respond? Can he respond? Can he win a tactical fight? Will Haye be able to avoid firefights for 10 rounds, or will his energy wane?
2. Can Chisora put punches together?
Give Chisora credit. Against much taller opponents (Helenius and Klitschko), he was able to find a way inside. Throwing overhand right hands and long left hooks, he closed the gap. The issue for Chisora has been what follows next. Because he is often the shorter opponent with the smaller reach (he will have disadvantages of 1 1/2 inches in height and 4 inches in reach against Haye), he has to find unconventional ways to get inside. His shots come from all over and, miraculously, many of them land. However, he lacks balance and the ability to quickly get into position to throw follow up punches; this lets his opponents off the hook.
Once he is on the inside, he can land with left and right uppercuts, left hooks and stinging right hands, but the essential question for Chisora is can he land combinations fluidly? Haye moves much better than Helenius or Klitschko could. Even if Chisora lands his big power shots, if he can't throw them in combination, Haye will no longer be in front of him; he'll be half way across the ring.
3. The Booth Factor.
Haye's trainer, Adam Booth, fancies himself as a masterful boxing tactician. From his work with Haye against Valuev to George Groves' close victory against James DeGale, Booth loves strategy and to devise clever game plans. So, despite the "Hayemaker" moniker, expect Booth's fighter to use some craft to try and secure a victory. This may make for a less scintillating affair than expected by many boxing fans, but Booth understands opponents’ strengths and weaknesses very well. Inside, the fight's a toss-up. On the outside, the conventional wisdom says it's Haye's fight. You can bet that Booth has imparted this message to Haye repeatedly.
4. Machismo overload?
Whenever boxers have a notable clash prior to stepping into the ring, it's always interesting to wonder if the pre-fight fireworks will carry into the match. Will Chisora's taunts take Haye off his game and lead to a war? Will Chisora spend so much time gunning for a knockout that he neglects to win rounds? These factors might play a central role in determining who wins this weekend's contest. The fighter who sticks with his game plan will most likely have the better chance of leaving the ring with a victory.
5. 10 rounds.
It was only widely circulated this week that the fight would be 10 rounds and not the usual 12, which is more typical for championship matches or high-profile bouts. It's believed that the Haye camp asked for the shorter length. In theory, a 10-round fight should benefit Haye in that he can win enough early rounds by boxing. In addition, if Haye gets hurt, the 10-round length will presumably provide him with less time needed to survive. The shorter match has the potential to completely change the complexion of the fight. If Chisora's plan was to take Haye into deep waters and come on later in the match, he'll have to initiate his offense a lot earlier than he would have with a traditional 12-round fight. Rounds will be at a premium.
Haye spends the majority of the fight boxing from the outside and confusing Chisora with his lateral movement and quick punches. Expect a lot of short left hooks and quick left hook-straight right hand, two-punch combinations. Haye will circle left and right, making it difficult for Chisora to plant his feet to throw his power shots. As the bout progresses, Chisora will be able to win some rounds decisively as he cuts off the ring and scores with power punches. Chisora will have moments where he dominates the fight, but will he have enough rounds in the bank when the final scores are announced? I don't think he will.