EUROPEAN heavyweight champion Dereck Chisora, due to defend his title on February 15 at the Copper Box Arena in London, got a new opponent on Monday in American Kevin Johnson.
Chisora (19-4, 13 KOs) was scheduled to fight Andriy Rudenko (24-0, 16 KOs) of Ukraine, but he pulled out after suffering an Achilles tendon injury on January 16.
“Johnson comes in with a great record and is a name that fans know,” Chisora said at a news conference on Monday in London.
“This is by no means an easy fight. He’s taken Tyson (Fury) and Vitali (Klitschko) the distance and he stopped (mandatory world title challenger Alex) Leapai. I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
Johnson (29-4-1, 14 KOs) (34) of Atlanta, lost a virtual shutout decision to Klitschko in a 2009 world title fight. He has also dropped two of his last three fights, including a decision to Fury in 2012.
Fury (21-0, 15 KOs) (25) of England, will appear on the undercard against 39-year-old journeyman Gonzalo Omar Basile (61-8, 28 KOs) of Argentina as promoter Frank Warren looks to build toward a rematch between Fury and Chisora in June – as long as they each win. Fury won a decision against Chisora in July 2011 in a crowd-pleasing fight.
While Chisora (30) of England, has been active, winning all four of his fights in 2013 (after three consecutive losses, including to Klitschko in a world title fight), Fury has not fought since knocking out former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham last April. The reason for the inactivity is because he had been scheduled to fight former titleholder David Haye, but twice Haye pulled out of the fight claiming injuries and it was cancelled.
Warren said he believes that should the Fury-Chisora rematch come off it could be a world title eliminator that would put the winner in position as a mandatory challenger for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali’s younger brother, who holds three of the major belts and is the lineal champion.
“Dereck faces the well-respected American Johnson, who Tyson beat on points just over a year ago,” Warren said. “He’s got a win over the current WBO No. 1 Alex Leapai, plus he took Vitali Klitschko the distance in their world title fight. It’s unfortunate that Rudenko pulled out injured. It’s not ideal, but things happen and Dereck’s a pro. But he knows he can’t afford to slip up.
“The name of the game is for Dereck and Tyson to look good and come through winners at the Copper Box Arena and then in the summer I’ll look to get an all-British final eliminator sanctioned by the WBO for the world title in a big grudge match, with the winner going on to challenge for the world title. I’m very excited to be working with Tyson, (uncle and trainer) Peter (Fury) and (promoter) Mick (Hennessy) and making the fights that the fans want to see.”
Chisora said: “I have to beat Johnson and then Tyson is waiting for me in a world title eliminator, which is a great incentive to really do a demolition job on Johnson.”
As usual, Fury had a lot to say about the Klitschkos and Chisora.
“The heavyweight division has been wide open for a long time, but not many people have been there to go and smash the titles off the Klitschkos,” he said. “Wladimir promised to fight the winner out of me and Chisora in the first fight and I never got the fight against him. Good riddance to Vitali, Grandpa robot, he wouldn’t fight any real opposition and he retired because he knew I was coming for him. I just can’t wait to get the rematch in the summer against Chisora and then get to take Wladimir’s head off.
“I’m glad that me and Chisora will be a final eliminator. Wladimir can either vacate the WBO title or fight me. I see a 100% improvement in Chisora. He’s a lot fitter and stronger, he’s better conditioned and a real athlete now. I’m focused on beating Basile first, then it’s Chisora. The first fight was a good one, but I hope that this fight is one of the best ever all-British heavyweight fights.”