With the heavyweight division more wide open than it has been in years, we are seeing a big uptick in compelling heavyweight fights in 2016. With a number of alphabet-soup belts now floating about in various hands, top contender are more willing to face off with each other and risk losing, for the sake of moving to the front of the line for a title shot.
This Saturday in Hamburg, two former title challengers will face off, when Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria meets Dereck Chisora of England. Pulev is certainly a top 10 heavyweight and arguably belongs in the top five. I’d definitely put Chisora in the top 20.
At 6’4″ and about 245-250 pounds, Pulev has size. He’s got technical skill, as well. He earned a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics and won his first 20 professional fights, including stoppages of Alexander Dmitrenko and Alexander Ustinov and a one-sided decision over Tony Thompson. But when he earned the chance to challenge Wladimir Klitschko in November 2014, he got starched, going down in just five rounds.
Chisora is a rugged and compact brawler. He lost to current champion Tyson Fury by unanimous decision in July 2011 but got stopped in 10, when they rematched in November 2014. Chisora lost by split decision to Robert Helenius in December 2011, in a fight that he actually deserved to win. That performance earned him a shot at Vitali Klitschko’s WBC belt, where he roughed up the champion and managed to go the distance, losing by wide margins on the cards.
Chisora handed knocked out Malik Scott in July 2013 and has handled fringe contenders like Ondrej Pala and Edmund Gerber. I think this is a fight that Pulev should be able to win, but Chisora is a rough customer and this could prove a tough night of work for the Bulgarian. It’s a fight that will overshadowed in North America this weekend by the big Canelo-Khan PPV. But it’s worth making note of this fight, at least for serious fans.