BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Daniel Dubois has lived up to his nickname of ‘Dynamite’ since his eye-catching arrival in the heavyweight division – but he couldn’t light the fuse when it came to his first true test.
And the manner of his defeat to Joe Joyce on Saturday night, choosing to take a knee and be counted out, made it a spectacular implosion.
Yes, Dubois is young enough at 23 to rebuild.
Yes, Dubois has the physical attributes and power to still one day be a top player in the weight class.
But this was the harshest of reality checks for the South Londoner who had been tipped for greatness by Frank Warren, his promoter and manager.
Dubois had looked spectacular in ripping his way through 15 opponents – collecting the British and Commonwealth titles along the way. The WBO governing body had him ranked number two in the world.
But let’s be real here, there was a lot of cannon fodder on his resume. The likes of Ricardo Snijders, Kyotaro Fujimoto, Ebenezer Tetteh and Richard Lartey all had impressive enough records but did not provide any kind of challenge.
Joyce did. Not only was the Putney man able to take some of Dubois’ big shots – he’s got to have one of the best chins at heavyweight – but he was also able to land plenty of his own.
I’d mentioned in the build up that Joyce had been overlooked. He was a 11/4 underdog coming into the bout. And it really isn’t clear why.
Not only is the 35-year-old a decorated former GB international, he also had better opponents on his professional record – Bryant Jennings, Bermane Stiverne and Lenroy Thomas.
Joyce pounded the resistance out of Brixton’s Ian Lewison on his debut. That’s not a fight that most boxers take in that scenario.
Joyce’s tactics were simple but bruisingly effective.
He had a reach and size advantage and victory was built off his jab. Time and again he found Dubois easy to land on.
Joyce showed respect for the younger man’s power as he kept things at distance.
And his punching is deceptive. He lacks the fluidity of Dubois and looks slightly stiff – but 11 stoppages on a 12-0 record tells you that he has caused plenty of damage.
Dubois’ left eye began to swell after the first few rounds and by the end it was completely shut.
And that’s where we get to a sore subject. Because the debate will rage whether Dubois – ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards at the time – should have continued.
Instead he dropped to his right knee – a delayed reaction after taking another shot to his battered eye and did not rise before referee Ian John-Lewis got to 10.
There have been plenty of fighters who have criticised Dubois for quitting – although many of those on social media and boxing YouTube channels are aligned to Matchroom Boxing, a rival of Warren’s Queensberry Promotions.
But Hammersmith’s former WBA super-middleweight champion George Groves had a different take.
“I was really disappointed that he was thrown under the bus. We don’t know what sort of eye injury he has or what sort of pain he was in.
“If Dubois has a serious injury to his eye that could be a career-ending injury if he’d fought on for a couple more rounds.
“Then what a brilliant and courageous decision he’s made at that point as an unbeaten pro in a huge, huge fight, to say this is just not right.”
David Haye and Carl Frampton, both on punditry duty for BT Sport, were critical of Dubois.
But neither man has had that type of injury. Haye cited his victory over Giacobbe Fragomeni as an example where he dug deep – but that was a cut over his left eye.
Dubois will have to live with his decision. While the physical wounds will quickly heal, it is the mental ones which arguably will be more challenging to mend.
That aura of invincibility that every unbeaten fighter enjoys has gone. The suggestion that when the going gets really tough he hasn’t got the stomach for it will linger.
“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success.” It’s a well-worn phrase by Scottish author Samuel Smiles.
There are plenty of examples of boxers coming back from adversity. Bermondsey’s Haye lost to Carl Thompson and went on to win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight.
Lennox Lewis was knocked out by Hasim Rahman but avenged that before topping off his career by beating Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko.
The pressure will be on Dubois when he does return to the ring in 2021. It’s likely the British and Commonwealth belts could be back available with Joyce now chasing a world title shot. The rebuilding job starts from here.
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