“Do you know you turned professional with me 17 years ago?” Frank Warren said to Derek Chisora when he finally arrived at the press conference to promote the heavyweight’s fight on July 27 with Joe Joyce. “In 2007. How long ago was that?”

Warren had already answered his second question but he will have known as well as any other that those 17 years have not only been spent getting punched in the head by other heavyweights – among them some of the finest of the modern era – but sparring with intensity, and enduring both sparring and professional contests with the technical limitations that mean that significant punishment was repeatedly absorbed.

“Yeah, that’s long,” responded Chisora. “But let me tell you something – I look fresh.”

On 17 February 2007, at Wembley Arena where he made his professional debut, Chisora stopped in two rounds Istvan Kecskes on a promotion that featured Michael Katsidis-Graham Earl, Audley Harrison-Michael Sprott, Amir Khan-Mohammed Medjadji and more. Khan, 37, has been retired for over two years. Harrison, Sprott, Katsidis and Earl for even longer.

Ricky Hatton was an undefeated fighter still working with Billy Graham and targeting a super fight with Floyd Mayweather, in February 2007. David Haye was three months removed from defending the European cruiserweight title against Giacobbe Fragomeni, and Joe Calzaghe was preparing to fight Peter Manfredo in his penultimate fight at 168lbs. Chisora – outlasting even HBO and Showtime Boxing – regardless fights on.

Chisora is 34-13, having been stopped four times. Those stoppages came at the hands of the heavy-handed Haye, Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte, and exist alongside defeats by Vitali Klitschko, Oleksandr Usyk and Joseph Parker, when at times the punishment he received was severe. 

Contrary to what he might say he also doesn’t look fresh – even in the marketing material to promote his latest fight, as also applied when he fought Gerald Washington on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s stoppage of Robert Helenius in August 2023. That night he was awarded scores of 97-94, 96-94 and 98-93, and he perhaps was fortunate that the sense of relief that he endured the 10 rounds without being hurt meant that the fairness of those scores was not questioned or brought into doubt.

“Frank Warren said he was never gonna promote me again, but we’re back here again, because I love you, Frank,” he also said. “I’m excited.

“Joe don’t go backwards. I don’t go backwards. By the time we finish the fight someone’s gonna have less brain cells left in their brains. That is the case – let’s be honest about it. That is the case.

“I’m excited to be back with you, Frank. One fight – two fights – who knows?

“I know we’re gonna sell out 18,000 tickets – hopefully.” 

Warren had rightly recognised the need for Chisora to retire before the third – and therefore least necessary – of his drawn-out defeats by Fury in 2022. 

If the promoter had had his way that evening Chisora wouldn’t have been anywhere near sharing the ring with Fury. In Chisora’s one fight in 2023 his balance was so unconvincing that he already appeared to be showing symptoms of CTE; in 2024 he regardless is not only preparing to fight Joyce, but to have a further two fights.

In Joyce’s past fight – a 10th-round stoppage of Kash Ali – his performance was sufficiently laboured that after a less punishing career than Chisora’s there were observers calling for him to retire. 

Ali was selected as his opponent in an attempt to rebuild Joyce’s reputation after successive, damaging stoppages by Zhilei Zhang, and though lower in profile than Chisora, Ali, far more so than Chisora in 2024, could be relied on to give him a tougher fight.

“In my opinion, you can’t afford to lose it, and Joe can’t afford to lose it,” Warren said to Chisora. “I know there’s a lot at stake for you and you know that better than me.”

Warren was speaking in the context of both fighters’ reputations but more important than Chisora’s reputation is the reality that his quality of life and his future is at stake. When he walked to the ring for his fight with Washington he, touchingly, wore a robe that read “Girl Daddy” that it was tempting to interpret as his message to those concerned for his health that he was fighting to secure his family’s financial future and to respect that he had made his peace with the consequences of doing so. When he spoke as he did about the coming fight with Joyce he wasn’t close to joking – he spoke like a man, and he remains relatively young, who is resigned to his fate. 

Chisora had been an hour and 45 minutes late for Wednesday afternoon’s press conference, and when he arrived he spoke of having been on the “school run” like a committed parent might. Joyce spoke of how he had pursued Chisora in the early stages of his professional career, when he was still being guided by Haye – who later went on to manage Chisora, and who himself fought on for too long.

The only time that Chisora noticeably objected to a word said was when Joyce accused him of ducking him previously, and when he did so the fighter within Chisora – the one that has outlasted his balance and his punch resistance, and which kept him in the second and third of his three fights with Fury longer than was wise – reacted to dismiss what his opponent, a heavy favourite regardless of his own decline, had said.

Chisora was again otherwise the showman that has come to be expected of him and that means that 17 years after his debut he remains relevant – and he remained that way when, in front of the table, he and Joyce faced off. At 38 years old Joyce does look fresh, even if he no longer fights like it, but whether he knew it or not, when he looked at Chisora he was looking at the symbol of everything he cannot afford to become.