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The once noble art of boxing deserves much better than this

Published on 21 February 2012

When David Haye finally gets in a ring with Dereck Chisora – because rest assured that one day, as sure as the clang of the timekeeper's bell, he will – the fight's promoters will waste no time smearing their snouts in the publicity trough.

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They will stage separate press conferences and split-screen weigh-ins. They will employ unprecedented numbers of ringside security. They will speak with straight faces of the need to uphold boxing's image. And the saddest part of the whole charade will not be that two men at the centre of Saturday night's uproar will stand to benefit financially, it will be that we, the British public, who have rightly expressed nothing but distaste for the pair's very public behaviour, will leave our morals at the door and buy into the whole unseemly business like never before.

Haye and Chisora are no longer simply a pair of domestic sloggers who were swatted by the Klitschkos. They are no longer one great big-mouthed busted flush. Their names glare out of headlines boasting bigger font sizes than ever before.

Such is the business of boxing, a sport whose own morals have become as bankrupt as many of the ageing, ailing fighters it has routinely chewed up and spat back out over the course of history.

Its apologists will point out that ugly promotional antics have been part and parcel of the business since the days of the Great White Hopes; that Muhammad Ali's baiting of Sonny Liston pushed the boundaries of good taste.

It could easily be argued that Ali's donning of camouflage fatigues and hiring a van to go "hunting" Liston employed rather more wit than Haye and Chisora flinging fists like a pair of bierkeller drunks but, today, such comparisons are frankly irrelevant. The fact is that boxing, increasingly marginalised by terrestrial and even satellite television, requires more promotional gimmicks than ever.

The wider sports-watching public proceeded through last week in blissful ignorance of the fact that a bloke from London was to spend Saturday night challenging for the "richest prize in sport" – which says all you need to know about the state of the game. Yet now, to that same public, Chisora and Haye are household names. They are not the types of blokes you would ever want in your household, but they are household names, none the less.

And, for the price of a few bruises, the prospect of a much bigger payday. Therein lies the heart of boxing's problem. Squeezed by its loss of TV exposure and the rise of sports such as mixed martial arts, it needs to retain its headlines – but those headlines remain pretty much the sole preserve of those who step over the line.

First, the British Boxing Board of Control need to get a grip. A sine die ban for Chisora would be welcomed, but is probably fanciful – Mike Tyson only got a year for chewing Evander Holyfield's ear. Nevertheless, he must face strong sanction.

Haye, not currently a licence holder, must be told he will not be able to end his cynical retirement at will. His application, when it comes, must be rejected. This is just the latest in a long line of disreputable behaviour on his part.

Ultimately, though, it is down to us. When their bans are served and the sport spews up Haye versus Chisora: The Grudge Match, we must turn our backs and stop the trend of fighters directly profiting from behaviour that drags their sport into the gutter.

Boxing deserves better than that. It was once a noble sport, whose foundations were built by great exponents. Today's pantomime villains are not fit to hold their spit-buckets.

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