Zimbabwe-born British heavyweight boxer, Derek Chisora, must have realised fate was against him.
Just hours from his most disastrous fight, he almost drowned the man brought in as a last-minute replacement for his trainer, who was stuck in another country.
The night that almost ruined Chisora was vintage “Del Boy.”
The build-up was chaotic, a slippery mover with the secret to his demise and an alarmingly overweight Tyson Fury at ringside.
Fury looked so poorly-prepared promoter Eddie Hearn thought “you ain’t ever going to come back”.
The depths of despair, three years ago in Monaco, illustrates just how far Chisora has come – where there was anarchy, there is now peace.
He fights Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night with his final chance to challenge for a world title at stake.
The task sounded straightforward.
A European title fight against an unbeaten but untested German called Agit Kabayel.
Win that belt and Chisora, then ranked in the WBC’s top 10, would edge closer to Deontay Wilder’s championship.
Monte Carlo. What could possibly go wrong…
As it turned out, everything.
Things took a strange turn when Tyson Fury arrived unannounced and, unexpectedly, two days before the fight, bear-hugging and embracing his former opponent Chisora.
Fury had not fought in 23 months since ending Wladimir Klitschko’s IBF, WBA and WBO title reign and, beset with mental health problems, had ballooned up to 28 stone.
“I’m fat as a pig, hairy as an animal, but still hungry as a lion,” Fury declared upon arrival on the French Riviera.
“Two years out of the ring gives me the va va voom to bust a few heads.”
Fury mocked Anthony Joshua:
“I can’t bench press 100 kilos but I do have the sweet science in my brain.”
Fury had no promoter, no championships and no hope – Hearn sat down to talk business with him but questioned whether he could ever return, and now regards this as his biggest professional regret.
“He surprised everybody and how wrong I was,” Hearn later admitted.
The furore over Fury’s appearance had detracted from a major issue which would become the catalyst for Chisora’s worst night.
His long-term trainer, Don Charles, who led him through two fights with Fury, a world heavyweight title challenge against Vitali Klitschko and a brawl with David Haye, was stuck in the UK due to visa issues.
He would not be in the corner for Chisora’s fight.
“I find out that Don Charles isn’t coming. I said to Chisora: ‘Are you for real, pal?’”
CJ Hussein had been in Chisora’s corner before, assisting Charles with Vaseline, ice and water.
On this occasion he travelled tasked with wrapping Chisora’s hands.
At the 11th hour, he inherited an unwanted responsibility.
“I didn’t know the kid that Chisora was fighting,” Hussein told Sky Sports. “I didn’t know the strategy.
“But Derek said the night before the fight: ‘I want you in my corner’.
“I could see Derek’s mood wasn’t right because he had been let down by Don.
“I kept Derek away from everyone. I know him. He wasn’t himself.”
Charles told Sky Sports: “Fighters are temperamental people, and Derek is like that. If everything is not in order, it throws them off.”
The discipline to Chisora’s week was out of the window. Without Charles to monitor him, and with Fury’s arrival geeing him up, Chisora was free to enjoy the entertainment on offer in Monte Carlo.
“Derek was doing what Derek wanted to do,” Hussein sighed, tellingly.
They went to a gym frequented by Carlos Takam, who a rejuvenated Chisora would knock out a year later but, on this occasion, he flatly failed to complete a hand-eye co-ordination test and Hussein immediately knew “something was wrong”.
After the weigh-in Chisora insisted his entire team jump into the Mediterranean – it nearly had dire consequences.
“We jumped into the water off a pier,” Hussein explains. “It was to revitalise Derek with the cold water.
“But the current was quite strong – Derek was okay because he is a big, strong man. But, I nearly floated away! That is true.”
Good job you didn’t float away, Sky Sports mention to Hussein, otherwise who would have cornered Chisora then? — Sky Sports.