He’s on his feet, phone in hand. A conversation with Derek Chisora can disappear down many burrows and this one is heading for a call to his mum. He feels like taunting her.
And so it rings. He’s chuckling, this 260lb, 36-year-old veteran of 41 heavyweight fights, and after a moment there’s an answer. He puts Viola on speakerphone.
‘I got another parking ticket,’ he announces. There’s an audible sigh from the other end, before she finally says: ‘Lucky you.’ She hangs up abruptly and Chisora is most amused.
Derek Chisora has never been one for an easy characterisation and has caused many shocks
The heavyweight is the wild man of boxing but believes, now at 36, he has calmed down
‘She gets mad when I get a parking ticket,’ he says. The punchline is that he didn’t.
Derek Chisora. Always the same, always that bit different. He used to be Dereck, a chucker of tables, and then for whatever reason he dropped the C from his name, but continues to raise hell when the mood takes him.
‘I’ve calmed down,’ he says. ‘I used to be a crazy man.’
The consensus is that any such shift is subtle. But it’s always been a touch more complicated with Chisora, a chap who knows the value of a good Victorian chair, and whose acquaintances include Nigel Farage and the occasional playwright. He has never been one for an easy characterisation, and he isn’t known for passing up chances to shock.
He’s the guy who slapped Vitali Klitschko, spat at Vitali’s brother Wladimir, put up a good challenge for a world title and then had an extraordinary punch-up at a press conference with David Haye, all in less than 36 hours.
Chisora – pictured fighting Senad Gashi – is the most unpredictable figure in British boxing
A conversation with him can take you from a stylish Victorian chair to Nigel Farage
Farage (right) and Chisora got to know each other because of their mutual backing of Brexit
He’s also bitten Paul Butlin, kissed Carl Baker, hurled furniture at Dillian Whyte and made Eddie Hearn ‘s*** himself’ a couple of times. There’s been so much more, making him possibly the most unpredictable figure in British boxing. But he’s still getting big fights at 36, and with a top-10 ranking, he is a gatekeeper to the heavyweight elite.
So he will serve as a yardstick on October 31 for Oleksandr Usyk, the Ukrainian who will face Anthony Joshua next year if he gets through this. It’s why Sportsmail visited the Vauxhall gym owned by Haye, who is Chisora’s manager these days. As it happened, Chisora was an hour late. ‘I was shooting,’ he says.
‘I want to hear them drop.’
He has a very particular kind of chuckle. ‘People will read that and they’ll be like, ‘F*** this b******’,’ he says.
Chisora once slapped Vitali Klitschko ahead of his only world title fight back in 2012
He also brawled with his now manager David Haye at a press conference leading to their fight
Chisora goes for his phone. There’s a picture of him in full gear — tweed, flat cap, the lot —and in each hand is a string of pheasants. He got into it around four years ago.
He begins: ‘My buddy was saying, “You want to come shooting one day?” So I call him two days later, “Listen, can I wear what I like?” He’s like, “Nah, you have to buy all this stuff”. So, I go to one of these shops, Holland & Holland, and say, “Give me everything on this list”. I walk out of there with everything, even a f****** whistle. Yeah, so shooting is where I was.’
Whether folk approve or not, Chisora isn’t fussed. ‘I say what I like to say,’ he adds. ‘Most people don’t want to break people’s feelings, but I just say how I feel. I like to have a debate.’
What was the last good one?
‘Something happened to my car,’ he says. ‘The TV system was wiped out and they were trying to get money off me. I’m like, “It’s under warranty”. I told him if I come down there, we are going to have a problem.’
He is still getting big fights at 36, and with a top-10 ranking, he is a gatekeeper to the elite
His neighbours in Hampstead have run into the same wall. ‘Look at this,’ Chisora says. He’s found another picture. ‘It is a wood-burning hot tub. When I put it on, my neighbours complain about the smoke.’
A chat with Chisora can go this way, in all manner of directions that lead nowhere near a boxing ring. He was always more diverse than the average, tracing back to early profiles that nosed on his passion for antiques.
He says: ‘I still do that. Now is a good time to get good stuff — people need money. Six weeks ago I walked by a shop and wanted this old chair, Victorian style. It was about 90 years old, filthy. I went to get cash and someone spoke to me so I forgot. Later I was like, “S***, my chair”. I went back and it was gone.
‘It’s not about investment. I just like old stuff that won’t be around soon. Your kids and mine won’t know what a phone box is.’
When Chisora gets on to boxing, he offers a compelling self-portrait. He has never bothered to mask his desire for conflict or his enjoyment for what he does for a living.
Up next for Chisora is Ukrainian star and potential Anthony Joshua opponent Oleksandr Usyk
He says: ‘I love it — I don’t want to retire. As a business it can be f***** up. Vultures.
‘But there is no other sport in the world that gives you the excitement. You get the gloves on, some guy knocks on a door and says, ‘Five minutes’.
‘You walk up and there’s a guy who wants to take your f****** head off. F***. You have that bit of fear but it ain’t about being hurt — I find that OK. I get up in the morning, feel my jaw, ‘Yeah, no steak for a couple of days’, busted ribs, and in a way, you feel good about that.
‘What you fear is embarrassing yourself. Anyone who says they don’t fear that is lying. When you get in there, everyone else gets out and you two have a war. A footballer scores, but come on. That ain’t the same.’
With 32 wins and nine defeats, it has been a long road since Chisora made his debut 13 years ago. That his career has had a resurgence in the past three years is attributed by Chisora to becoming a born-again Christian.
Chisora admits he admires Usyk but is confident of pulling off a major upset on October 31
‘I lost a fight in Monaco, 2017. I wasn’t doing anything too crazy but I just needed to change myself. I haven’t had a drink since then — two years, nine months.’
On the back of three straight wins since losing to Whyte in 2018, Usyk will be an awfully big ask. ‘I go to seek and destroy,’ Chisora says.
‘But you know what, I like that guy. He is good. I can zone in on what I’ve got to do. That is easy because I’m always ready for war — someone has a problem, call me. I am all you need. But I admire that guy.’
It is not known if Farage will be there. They got to know each other through their mutual backing of Brexit and he’s been known to rock up. ‘He likes boxing,’ Chisora says. ‘I haven’t spoken to him since lockdown but he’s been to three or four fights.’
With that, Chisora is on to politics. ‘If I was Mayor of London, I would take the congestion charge off. I’d keep the bike lanes. And buses free on a Thursday.’
It’s par for the conversation.