In most lines of work, it’s relatively common to vouch for your friends at work, or even explicitly help them get a job. In boxing, that can materialize in certain ways that feel fairly traditional. Fighters will employ other fighters they like as training or sparring partners, put in a good word for their peers with a manager or promoter, or sometimes even vouch for them to have a spot on their undercard if they’re a marquee fighter.
But there’s another less common way that interpersonal charity takes place in boxing: Beating the hell out of your friend so that they can make a whole lot of money.
Such was the case on Saturday night in Tottenham, as Tyson Fury battered his buddy Derek Chisora in front of 60,000 fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, scoring a tenth round TKO victory in the third bout of their trilogy.
To an uninformed observer, or even one with knowledge of the boxing landscape but not of Fury and Chisora’s relationship, the fight would have appeared rather pointless both on paper and on-screen. Fury had beaten Chisora twice before, the second time in even more lopsided fashion than the first. As the division’s consensus top dog and one of the sport’s biggest draws, Fury can mostly have his choice of opponents, and the divisional Top 10 houses two names in particular that the audience particularly wants to see him in with, Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
Earlier this year, Fury announced that he’d retired from the sport following a knockout victory over Dillian Whyte. Of course, Fury has walked away from the sport in the past, and suggested he was going to even more times than that, but this time he took the steps to vacate his RING Magazine title and inform the WBC that he wanted to vacate as well. The WBC gave him time to reconsider, and on or around the deadline of August 26 the organization set for Fury to make a final decision, Fury decided he’d stick around. Brief negotiations happened for both a Joshua and Usyk bout. Usyk reportedly didn’t want to fight in December, the proposed date, preferring a bout in early 2023. In the case of Joshua, Fury abruptly pulled the plug on negotiations claiming difficulties in dealing with Joshua and his promoter Matchroom.
"He doesn't have any belts. He doesn't have anything that I need and there will not be a fight between me and him ever. Full stop," Fury told Sky Sports. "There's too much messing (around). I'm not going over it again. They're too hard to deal with."
His friend Chisora however, was not hard for him to deal with. Looking to stay active at the suggestion of his trainer SugarHill Steward, Fury received a phone call from his pal at a fortuitous time for Chisora. Fury told BT Sport presenter Steve Bunce prior to the bout Saturday that the two were chatting on the phone when Fury asked Chisora who he would be fighting next. Chisora told him “I’m gonna fight you,” and little else needed to be said. Before long, Chisora had signed a contract to make a purse guaranteed to be just shy of three million US dollars.
Chisora also provided Fury with a near-guaranteed win, a foe on the decline whom he’d handily beaten when he wasn’t quite as good a fighter as he is today, and an affable personality and recognizable name to make a stadium fight—and the extra cash that comes with that—feasible.
After the requisite ring walk theatrics, Fury and Chisora assumed the same positions they’d been in for the latter half of their most recent bout in 2014: Chisora languishing on the ropes looking to land a home run haymaker, Fury measuring him and teeing off. It’s a strategy that Chisora has used to beat or give good fights to other Top-10 heavyweights in recent years, as he’s aged, bulked up and become less capable of bulldozing forward for 12 rounds. Against a goliath with middleweight dexterity and radar-like instincts however, it’s relatively fruitless.
Though Fury would later admit that Chisora “hit him with some good body shots,” very little of consequence seemed to land for Del Boy. At the end of the second round, Fury clobbered Chisora along the ropes, Chisora seeming to sink into the fibers as he absorbed punishment without the possibility of a reply. He made it to the end of the round, and before the two walked to their separate corners, Fury flashed him a wink and a smile as they touched gloves.
This moment alone illustrated the tenor of the fight perfectly. It’s hard to define what was happening as full-on “carrying,” because Fury was certainly hurting his friend—any one of his straight right hands and uppercuts (he landed 142 power punches at a nearly 56% clip according to CompuBox) could have knocked Chisora out and he would have been fine with it—but there was a degree of restraint.
After nearly ten rounds of the same, referee Victor Loughlin did what Chisora and Chisora’s corner—and even Fury to a degree--were all hesitant to do: Take him out of the fight.
In the locker room afterwards, Fury strolled into Chisora’s quarters in one of his usual get-ups of Contenders underwear and a WBC Champion t-shirt. Though cell phone cameras were abundant, and the scene was ultimately shared on Chisora’s social media, the two chatted as if there were no audience, pulling back the curtain entirely. With their wives and children in the room, everyone greeting one another, the two delved into a bag of Five Guys burgers. With Chisora’s jaw clearly damaged and his right eye nearly shut, Fury had to carry the conversation a little more than usual. They talked about Christmas, the possibility of having more children and mostly everything except what they’d done to one another—or more appropriately, what Fury had done to him.
Instead it was about what Fury had done for him, a violent, charitable act that only makes sense if you view boxing as what it fundamentally is, one of the world’s most truly bizarre forms of labor, and hear it as a love language only two people who risk their lives against one another can speak.
Corey Erdman is a boxing writer and commentator based in Toronto, ON, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman