Haye v Chisora: Forget the nonsense, enjoy the fight
The most startling claim made at the final news conference before Saturday's bout between David Haye and Dereck Chisora came from the latter's trainer Don Charles: "I would go as far as to say the kid [Chisora] is a genius."
While I am aware that geniuses are not always immediately obvious - just ask the poor prostitute Van Gogh gave his ear to - I am equally certain that losing three of your last four fights, slapping a rival at a weigh-in, spitting at his brother and collecting parking meters does not a genius make.
Having headed for the news conference almost directly from the rather more buttoned-up environment of Wimbledon, the nonsense piled up so fast I needed wings to stay above it: playground insults traded by hard men through a metal fence that would have struggled to keep apart a couple of warring toddlers. How much more bonkers could this be? The answer is 'none': none more bonkers.
David Haye and Dereck Chisora ahead of their clash at Upton Park. Photo: Getty
And yet. And yet. My claim is this: that no activity in the sporting canon evokes in its audience such a wide range of emotions as boxing. Fear, anger, sadness, joy, admiration, disgust, shame, pity, all are there, with amusement gelling the whole thing together like a generous slathering of jam in a cake.
If one person embodied the sport's emotional incontinence it was two-weight world champion Chris Eubank: a man who wore a monocle and jodhpurs (anger, amusement, take your pick), fought with the heart of a lion (fear, joy, admiration) and was involved in his fair share of tragedy (disgust, shame, pity).
As much as I was filled with admiration for the talent on display at SW19, while I sucked up a few tears on seeing Andy Murray losing and laughed on seeing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga wear a forehand in his unmentionables, tennis is not a game that evokes emotional extremes. Because it is just that: a game.
So while sections of the media have condemned Saturday's fight at Upton Park, a lot of punters have bought into it: 30,000 are expected, which is 5,000 more than watched Lennox Lewis beat Frank Bruno in Cardiff in 1993.
Sub-consciously or not, these will include people for whom the undeniable silliness of professional boxing obscures, and perhaps makes more palatable, the seriousness of the activity. Boxing, when all the fripperies and all the supposed rights and wrongs are stripped away, is two men putting their lives and manhood on the line. And so it will be when David Haye fights Dereck Chisora this weekend.
So it is time to put behind us whether this fight should ever have taken place - something I discussed at length when it was announced - and concentrate on the here and now: it is legal, the punters clearly want it and it is an intriguing stylistic match-up that has the makings of a domestic classic.
At its heart the fight is a tale of redemption. But perhaps only for one man. While his trainer thinks his kid is a genius, most of the rest of Britain thinks Chisora is unhinged, someone who flits between biting and kissing opponents. Win with honour and a few people might change their minds.
When it was put to Haye that he is in danger of being remembered for all the wrong reasons, he didn't seem to mind: "It doesn't bother me. As long as the people I care about and boxing people know what I've achieved, I'm happy."
But to be remembered for his 'fight' against Audley Harrison (Harrison threw one punch in three rounds), his 'fight' against Wladimir Klitschko (Haye talked it up before blaming defeat on his toe) and his 'fight' against Chisora (February's glass-shattering brawl in Munich) would be a shame.
For Haye is a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, who climbed off the canvas in Paris to beat Jean-Marc Mormeck for the WBA and WBC crowns before blitzing Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds. And let's not forget his win over Nikolay Valuev, to whom he gave away 10 inches and six stone.
While Haye will tell anyone who cares to listen that he will get Chisora out of the way in one or two rounds, others are not convinced it will be quite so easy. And Haye knows he needs an eye-catching performance to keep Vitali Klitschko, who Chisora performed so creditably against, from retirement.
In a battle between a ponderous, come-forward pressure-fighter (Chisora) and a speedy, back-foot counter-puncher (Haye), the outcomes are numerous, especially when punching power, chins and stamina are chucked into the equation.
Haye starts the favourite because most people believe he will be too quick and too explosive. But Chisora will be banking on his durability - he won the last round against Vitali - looking to make his rival fight three minutes of every round and hoping Haye blows himself out down the stretch.
"He gets blasted out real fast," is how Haye sees it. Chisora's response: "He's got speed for one round. By round four, he'll be blowing out of his backside."
"Whatever happens," said Chisora's manager Frank Warren, "you can guarantee the winner's next fight will be against one of the Klitschkos. So much for all that nonsense they said about this being a freak show." Intelligent blokes, the Klitschkos, which is why they know nonsense is just part of this very dangerous game.