IT was a strange fight in a strange location against a strange opponent for a strange belt, but in the end Daniel Dubois did what he had to do in Miami tonight (June 11), providing the night’s only real truth with a left hook thrown to the jaw of Trevor Bryan in round four.
The shot, a peach, merely confirmed what we knew going in. It confirmed, for one, the gulf in class between Dubois and Bryan, which was clear to anyone who had seen either of them box, and it confirmed, also, the fact that winning a WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title remains more of a burden than any sort of remarkable feat.
Had the fight been for a proper title, of course, the reaction would have been different. But over there in Miami, in a location which appeared somewhere between a school gymnasium and a bingo hall, Dubois’ rise to what we are told resembles ‘world-class’ was greeted with a muted hush, the only sliver of joy produced by those who stand to make money from this laughable WBA ‘regular’ title scheme.
Stuck in the middle of it, both the scheme and the shrilling, Dubois, the single adult at a kids’ party, had no choice but to play along. Yet his performance, and the finish in particular, deserved more than the ugly backdrop and aftermath, neither of which did much to authenticate what he had just done.
In terms of that, Dubois, in a basic sense, had done what no other pro had done before. He had not only become the first man to beat Trevor Bryan as a pro but had stopped him inside four rounds, a result most expected yet one no less impressive given Dubois’ relative inexperience. He also dominated the fight from the outset, rocking Bryan at numerous points with overhand rights, and seemed to be in control and composed at all times, if a little stiff and predictable, as is sometimes the case with the heavyset Londoner.
“This is what I dreamed of as a little kid, and now finally making it happen… it’s about time,” Dubois told BT Sport. “I’ve got to thank Don King for this great opportunity, and everyone that made this happen. Just amazing.
“This, I believe will make me an instantly better fighter now. When you win the world title, they say you become next level.
“Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker – all the names out there, they’re all on my hit list.”
On reflection, winning a WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title is akin to that moment between a goal being scored in a football match and that goal eventually being approved by VAR (Video Action Replay). It is not the initial celebration, when the overwhelming emotion takes the players on a brief and euphoric ride before learning of the imminent check, nor is it the celebration we used to see, back in the good old days, when there was no need to even check. Instead, winning a WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title is the messy middle part; the uncertainty, the anticlimax, the comedown. Goal eventually given, the celebration will of course resume, though never will it be as joyous as earlier, for the feeling of scoring – of unadulterated success – has by now been diluted, reduced from something spontaneous and magical to something far more clinical.
Which is to say, winning a WBA ‘regular’ title in the boxing ring is, like that moment between a goal being scored and a goal being given, shrouded in awkwardness and unease. It is a belt, so clearly and objectively an achievement worth celebrating, yet find yourself celebrating it too much and you will be accused of either not understanding its value or, worse, not caring. You will be told you are duplicitous and trying to take the uneducated masses for a ride. You will then be accused of setting your sights low because you doubt your ability to aim any higher.
In the case of Dubois, he will have no doubt celebrated his latest achievement in Miami – and rightly so, too. The performance, but more so the finishing punch, was as good as any he has produced since stopping Nathan Gorman in 2019 and there can be no denying he deserves credit for dirtying Trevor Bryan’s previously unblemished record.
Yet, deep down, Dubois, being the ambitious fighter he is, will also understand why the reward for stopping Trevor Bryan, 22-1 (15), means considerably less to him than it does to others. He has, after all, designs on winning the world heavyweight title – the world heavyweight title – and is therefore unlikely to be content with second – or, for that matter, third – best, which is all he received tonight. He is better than that and has already proven this.
Unlike his predecessors, Dubois is already better than the title he now carries like an ASBO and therefore shouldn’t feel the need to sell it as something it’s not for either underserved kudos or a cash scheme. At 18-1 (17), he is still progressing, destined for bigger and better things, and nowhere near the finished article, which is to be expected given he is still only 24 – young in boxing terms, never mind heavyweight terms.
In fact, there was a time when being the finished article was viewed as pretty much a prerequisite for a ‘world’ champion; back when a world title was a culmination rather than a stepping stone.
Now, though, what we have is a situation whereby BT Sport will on the one hand laud Dubois’ crowning achievement and celebrate his arrival as a force on the world stage and then, in the next breath, have pundits suggesting fellow contenders and journeyman opponents against whom he can further his education.
We should, I guess, be used to this by now, yet it never fails to either confuse or amuse – and, ultimately, disillusion. Perhaps, if acceptance is still the key (to moving on rather than changing anything), we should now just accept that while people once spoke of stepping stone opponents, we find ourselves currently in an age of stepping stone titles. That’s not right and it’s definitely not helpful, but nor, given the hunger and need for them, is it ever likely to change.
In Miami, this new normal, this unreality, meant Daniel Dubois’ WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title, despite the lies it tells and the letters it contains, represented little more than another in a long line of trinkets seized by a talented and exciting contender. But, alas, who wants to be sold that story?