Derek Chisora showed there is more to come in his roller-coaster boxing career after he ended a run of three consecutive losses with a split-decision victory Saturday to gain revenge over Kubrat Pulev.
Chisora celebrated with his children in the ring at the O2 Arena in London after receiving scores of 116-114 and 116-112 in his favor, with 116-112 to Pulev.
Chisora might not be a serious heavyweight title contender anymore (he last challenged for a world title 10 years ago, when he was beaten by Vitali Klitschko), but he remains an entertaining figure and fighter. He is rarely in a dull fight, and this was no exception.
“It was hard; Pulev is a great fighter,” Chisora said during his post-fight interview. “I needed a win, I’ve lost so many fights. It feels great to be a winner.
“I’m happy today but at the same time I’m sad. I don’t have many left in me. My next couple fights need to be big ones. I don’t want any easy fights. If I can get ‘The Bronze Bomber’ [former WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder] in my next fight, I will be happy.”
In his last three fights, Chisora (33-12, 23 KOs) suffered decision loses to Oleksandr Usyk — now the WBA, IBF, WBO world heavyweight champion — and Joseph Parker (twice). Chisora performed well in all three, and the heart he showed against Pulev is likely to land him another big fight.
Chisora, who has lived in London since childhood after moving from Zimbabwe, rejoiced at ending a run of defeats and also addressing what he felt was an unjust split-points defeat to Pulev for the European title in 2016.
Pulev (29-3, 14 KOs), from Sofia, Bulgaria, who was knocked out by Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko in heavyweight title fights in 2020 and 2014 respectively, won a unanimous decision over Jerry Forrest in May to end 18 months of inactivity.
Defeating a high-level opponent such as Pulev might just be enough for Chisora to make the fight with Wilder happen. The American has not fought since being stopped by Tyson Fury last year.
Chisora’s best attacks were to the body in the first half of the fight, while Pulev focused on trying to establish some range to get his jab working.
In the second half of the fight, both fought more freely and instinctively to produce an enthralling contest. Chisora is 38 and Pulev is 41, yet both fought with intensity for 12 rounds.
It was ugly early on, but Chisora had some success with his relentless, mauling style and got through with a series of cuffing left hands. Pulev found some distance to get his jab working in the second, but later in the round Chisora responded with heavy shots to the body.
Despite Chisora’s efforts in the first three rounds, Pulev remained composed and largely unconcerned, and at the end of the fourth round began landing more with his right hand.
In the fifth, Pulev put Chisora under pressure against the ropes, even after suffering a cut above the left eye.
But in the seventh round, blood was left streaming down Pulev’s face after he was caught by a right forearm. Chisora followed up with a left hook later in the seventh as the fight began to catch fire.
Pulev sent Chisora staggering back from a right uppercut in the eighth round, but Chisora, who showed remarkable powers of recovery, came back firing moments later.
The ninth round was even better. Chisora belted Pulev with a huge overhand right and a left hook, but the Bulgarian responded with a big right hand of his own as both had moments of dominance.
During the 10th Pulev was cut above the right eye, and the round ended with both landing big shots after the bell.
Both gave it their all until the final round, and it was close enough to have gone either way.