Eddie Hearn has rejected criticisms that Derek Chisora should retire, but says that if he does not beat Kubrat Pulev next month, it might be the right moment to call time on his career.

Chisora faces two-time world title challenger Pulev at the O2 Arena, London, on July 9. It looks like a last chance for both fighters. The 41-year-old Bulgarian has won his only fight since losing to Anthony Joshua at Wembley at the end of 2020, while Chisora, 38, has lost his past three fights – to Oleksandr Usyk and then Joseph Parker, twice.

That last fight, in December, was particularly punishing, as Chisora was wobbled repeatedly from an early stage but Parker was unable to stop Chisora, meaning he shipped a lot of punishment.

But Hearn insists that the way Chisora has been in the gym shows that he still has plenty of fight left in him.

“The teams see it,” Hearn said. “If he goes away and spars really badly in the last couple of months, you would be concerned, but he has not. He is sparring well, he is fit and healthy and he is up for it. We don’t see any signs of regression.

“Of course, as he gets older, as he is in tough fights, he is not going to be the spring chicken that he once was. At some point he will be in a fight or a spar when the people around him will go ‘no’. But that is not now.

“He is losing to elite guys, top ten guys every time. He could have won the first Parker fight, he could have won the first Dillian Whyte fight, he was robbed against Helenius, although we are going back a bit now.

“He needs to win this fight because you can’t keep losing, even at a high level and if he does lose this fight I suggest he does pack it up. It may be the same for Pulev.”

The Pulev fight came together in a rush after the original plan – to match Chisora with Adam Kownacki – fell apart.

“We had agreed a deal with Kownacki but were just finalising some details,” Hearn said. “Then Derek posted his signed contract and it alerted a few people and they tried to disrupt the fight… and they did.

“We were sitting six or seven weeks out thinking who could we get and I didn’t think Pulev would take the fight, but he accepted and we got it done quite quickly.

“This is a bigger fight in terms of profile than Kownacki, he is higher ranked too. I was surprised but pleasantly surprised when we managed to get it over the line.”

Any planning for Chisora, though, does not go beyond Pulev.

“This is the one fighter we work with where there is no plan,” Hearn said. “If you sat down with Derek and said ‘if you win this fight..’, he will just say, let’s talk about that later. He just wants a date and a fight – he just loves it. Back at the O2, he was so excited.

“His ambition is to be in great fights and just to have absolute tear-ups – genuinely.”

“After the Parker fight I said to his team, 258 (Management),’ I think you should just get a couple of wins. But he couldn’t be less interested. He said ‘against who?’.

“’Anyone. Everyone is moaning that you keep losing and you should retire, so go out and knock a few people out and then we will get you a big fight’.

“‘Why would I want to do that?’”

Chisora and Pulev met previously in 2016 for the European title in Hamburg, when Pulev claimed a split decision in what was a slow fight.

“Derek doesn’t fight like that anymore and neither can really afford to do that,” Hearn said.

“The problem for Derek is if he beats Kubrat Pulev he moves into the top ten in every governing body.

“But he is sparring great, he feels great and I don’t know who the favorite is in this fight. I think he could have won the first fight, but it was a long time ago now and I think Derek is better now. Is Pulev worse? I don’t know, he only has two defeats. The fights he had in America, he was winning them quite easily.”

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.