British boxing fans got what they wanted last week when it was confirmed that Carl Froch and George Groves would fight again in May. On Saturday, another big all-British rematch came closer when Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury came through their first bouts of 2014 against Kevin Johnson and Joey Abell, respectively.
Chisora and Fury fought before in 2011 with Fury winning a wide-points decision against a clearly overweight Chisora. That's one strong reason for the rematch: The Chisora of recent fights—high energy and weighing in at 235 pounds—is a world away from the 261-pound version of 2011.
In the first fight, Chisora was able to bull his way through Fury's defence at times and land telling blows, but he simply didn't have the engine to keep the pressure on and try to force a stoppage. The rejuvenated fighter we have seen lately will be much more dangerous to Fury.
The first fight was an entertaining heavyweight scrap with both fighters happy to take a shot to land one, and both displayed bravado when hit, shaking their heads as if they weren't hurt and calling for more. The pair of them have shown improved power and technique since then, so the amount of damage inflicted is only likely to rise.
Fury's trainer, Peter Fury is anticipating an all-action affair. He told interviewer Glynn Evans:
They’ll not need to look for each other and I see a proper war unfolding. Expect Tyson to just bang his gloves together mid ring and ‘have it’ with him. It’s going to be a proper old fashioned ‘straightener’! I’m very confident Tyson will be the man still standing at the end.
What people might forget about the first fight is how inexperienced both fighters were—it was the first time either of them had gone the full 12-round distance.
Since then, Chisora has had the tougher assignments, acquitting himself well when deserving the nod against Robert Helenius and going the distance with Vitali Klitschko, before being stopped for the first time by David Haye. Fury has progressed more slowly, his best win being his seventh-round stoppage of former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham last April.
A rematch would show which of these paths has borne more fruit: Has Chisora been strengthened by those difficult challenges or weakened by the beatings? Has Fury been developing at a steady pace or merely stagnating?
Another reason for this fight is to see who is Britain's best heavyweight. Back in 2011, Haye was clearly the holder of that title but since his putative retirement, Chisora and Fury are the obvious heirs to that throne.
This fight would also be something that is rare full stop in the heavyweight division—a non-title fight between two top-10 contenders. Generally fighters work their way into the top 10 and then wait around fighting no-hopers so as not to jeopardize their chance of a title shot. Arguably there hasn't been a fight between top-10 guys since Haye-Chisora, and Chisora might not have made the cut then anyway.
The final ingredient that makes this fight so fan-friendly is the combustible personalities involved. Fury is incapable of giving a bad interview while the recalcitrant Chisora is simply unpredictable. Chisora may have calmed down in recent times, but we will see if that lasts when he's once again in the orbit of a big event.
Right now, Chisora and Fury are expressing mutual respect. Chisora told BoxNation, "Me and him are cool. We don't have bad blood. He's got respect for me, I've got respect for him." Fury, talking to the same station, paid Chisora his highest compliment: "He's a fighting man like myself."
But already cracks are appearing in this entente cordiale. Fury predicted Chisora would lose to Johnson and then criticised the fight from ringside.
Chisora has yet to reply but as the fight grows nearer in the months ahead, Fury can surely expect some blowback.
It really is a fight that has everything: two top-10 heavyweights, domestic bragging rights at stake, a pair of fighters who will throw leather and put themselves on the line, an excellent yardstick to their individual world-title aspirations and every expectation of a juicy build-up.
This is a fight fans want to see in 2014, and it looks to be on the horizon. The only question is just how big it will be.