The Unwanted Sequel: Pulev and Chisora go back for more

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Derek Chisora and Kubrat Pulev at the press conference to announce their rematch
(Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

Veterans Pulev and Chisora set to collide in bizarre return, writes Matt Christie

EVEN if we include Teenwolf Too, Neverending Story III and Chad Dawson-Antonio Tarver II, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to find a more pointless sequel than Kubrat Pulev-Derek Chisora: Total Carnage, which takes place this Saturday (July 9) at the O2 Arena.

The marketeers will tell you it’s last chance saloon for this pair of popular perennial contenders. And that is certainly true. What isn’t true, not even slightly, is that their first fight demanded seconds. A fistic feast, it most certainly was not. Though officially a split decision win for Pulev way back in 2016, it was largely one-sided fare controlled by the Bulgarian’s jab. Even if you had to write a preview for the return and were thereby forced to go back and endure the first encounter again, it’s unlikely you’ll remember anything about it five minutes after you hear the sound of the final bell. It was that kind of fight; completely and utterly forgettable.

What is fair to say is that both boxers are better known to fight fans now than they were back then. “Del Boy” has seen his stock rise through a series of gruelling slugfests while Pulev – after getting into strife for attempting to snog a female interviewer a couple of years back – drew applause for laughing his way through a nine-round pasting at the hands of Anthony Joshua at the end of 2020. Both are brave. Both can bang. Throw in the ‘fame’ they’ve acquired, not through winning the big ones but by threatening to, and you can just about understand – if you put yourself in Eddie Hearn’s shoes – why this just might work as a spectacle at this late stage of their careers.

After all, nobody was screaming for Chisora-Joseph Parker II bar Derek and his promoter but, somehow, it entertained plenty in a manner that the first fight did not. What it also appeared to do, however, was exhibit a concerning dip in the reflexes and punch resistance of Chisora who took three counts before losing on points. As loveable as he is inside the ring and out, the Finchley warhorse has nonetheless swallowed so many punches over the years it defies all medical logic that he won’t feel the effects of them later in life. Listed as 38 years old, though those close to him insist he’s several years older, Chisora chose to use his skull as the first line of defence while he tried in vain to land a knockout blow of his own. For those of us who genuinely care about Chisora it became exceptionally difficult to watch. Particularly when we remember the brain-shuddering thumps he barely survived against the likes of Tyson Fury (twice), Vitali Klitschko, David Haye, Dillian Whyte (twice), Carlos Takam and Oleksandr Usyk.

Pulev, though (officially) older at 41, hasn’t been through the mill quite as much as his rival. At his peak an excellent boxer-puncher, Pulev has nonetheless been showing signs of steady decline since he was flattened by Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. Yet he was lively enough against Joshua to retain some market value as a seasoned stepping stone and, as recently as May, Pulev proved he had enough left to stop a poor Jerry Forrest from getting to the other side. But can Chisora, 32-12 (23), really afford to be plunged into deep water again?

The Londoner – who promises to ‘box’ this time – will tell you he has no plans to retire. Infer that he should and you might as well just spit in his face. Like too many ageing fighters, just because he feels fine today he presumes he will be okay tomorrow. Chisora prides himself on being a boxer, he adores the recognition as such and has grown used to getting well-earned paydays several times a year and flaunting that wealth every day. But he’s lost his last three fights. The only noteworthy wins on his record in the last seven years came against Takam and David Price. So when one considers the relatively easy time Pulev had with him six years ago and the way he looked against Parker, when he stood groggily in the corner and invited the New Zealander to whack him, it’s very hard to pick Chisora to win this fight.

With that in mind, the prediction is for the Bulgarian, who might have a bit more left in the tank, to repeat his 12-round points success. However, Chisora being stopped, mercifully on his stool or by the referee, is not remotely out of the question.

Though DAZN and Matchroom might be hoping that the fight matches the Total Carnage tagline, the thought of Derek being in another hellacious battle is stomach churning in the extreme. The hope, then, is that the sequel is more Weekend At Bernies II than Terminator II, a drama-free but harmless rerun that persuades all involved that we simply do not need to see any more.

The undercard should provide showcases for fighters at the other end of their careers. Number six-ranked super-welter, the promising 8-0 (6) Israil Madrimov, is forced to go over old ground against Frenchman Michel Soro, 35-3-1 (24). The pair clashed in December 2021 and though Soro was stopped at the end of the ninth, the referee failed to hear the bell so the finish came after the round’s rightful conclusion.

Soro, 35-3-1 (24), had been competitive in the early going but was being outworked until the aggressive Madrimov faded in the middle rounds. Soro looked to be on his way to an upset until the Uzbek turned things back around. It’s not an easy one to call but, presuming Madrimov doesn’t tire alarmingly again, he should get the job done inside the scheduled 10.

Belfast’s talented Caoimhin Agyarko, 11-0 (7), will look to build on a March points win over Juan Carlos Rubio when he tackles durable Lukasz Maciec, 28-4-1 (5). The Pole was last seen in this venue as recently as February when he lost unanimously to Anthony Fowler. A similar result seems the logical outcome here.

There are also runouts for heavyweights Fabio Wardley, 13-0 (12), and Solomon Dacres, 3-0 (1), middleweight Felix Cash, 15-0 (10), and super-bantamweight hope Ramla Ali, 5-0 (1).

THE VERDICT: Chisora goes to the mill yet again. Let’s hope he makes it out safely.

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