HAS British heavyweight boxing ever been so strong? Between them Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury hold all four of the major heavyweight titles. Dillian Whyte remains a contender. Joe Joyce, who was unfortunate to come away from the last Olympics with just the silver medal, has quickly stepped up in class as a professional. If and when the Tokyo Olympics come round, Frazer Clarke will be in the reckoning for a podium finish. But Daniel Dubois might just be one the biggest threats rising in the division.
Until he blitzed Nathan Gorman to win the British heavyweight title last year, Dubois had questions to answer. But his temperament, his technique and his power, so far, all appear to be world class. He scythed through Gorman, though followed that win up with two all-too straight-forward victories over lower level opposition in Kyotaro Fujimoto and Ebenezer Tetteh. He had however intended to take another step up on August 29. He was meant to fight Erik Pfeifer, in what should have been a significant test. Pfeifer is an unbeaten pro, a two-time amateur World medallist and a two-time Olympian (who was unlucky at Rio 2016 too). Making the match, especially with the Joe Joyce fight pencilled back in for October 24, was a real vote of confidence in Dubois.
Sadly it was not to be. Issues with his medical saw the fight fall out. It was left to Ricardo Snijders to come in at short notice. The task left for Dubois is simple. He needs another fast, explosive knockout and then to move on to the Joyce fight. It’s easy to think as well that a quiet, behind-closed doors event will make it even easier for him to zero in on the unfortunate Snijders this Saturday.
“A crowd’s great and everything but at the end of the day, we’re two fighters in the ring. It just comes down to just us two. Who wants it more and who’s going to dig deeper and who’s got more inside of them that’s going to make them a champion,” Daniel told Boxing News. “I just want to get the job over and done quicker, even more now. We’re just going to be all business. No messing around at all. I’ll be focused 100 percent, looking to make a statement.
“It makes me want to win even more and win in dominant fashion, devastating fashion. Really go out there and make a statement. Can’t wait.”
This last-minute change is hardly likely to throw Dubois off. He’s had the bout with Joyce rescheduled twice now and has had to keep training throughout the coronavirus lockdown. “We were just staying hopeful [when the Joyce was initially moved from April to July] but it didn’t look likely because the news was that this thing spreading out more and more, taking over the world really,” he said. “It’s been very disruptive. It’s stopped everyone in their tracks really. At the same time it could be a blessing. Slow down rest, try and recuperate. Get where we’re going and prepare ourselves to be even better.
“It’s all good. Tough. You’ve got to be able to fight under any conditions, you can’t let anything distract you from the job. So learning for me.”
When the lockdown rules only allowed households to train together, that was just fine for the Dubois family. His brother Prince has won a Youth amateur title and his sister Caroline, now on Great Britain’s Olympic team, is probably the country’s most successful amateur at Junior and Youth levels. With a gym constructed at home, the Dubois family had been training together. In fact he’s taken encouragement from seeing his siblings powering on. “Very much, completely inspiring to watch them work away and focus 100 percent even though nothing’s going on,” he said. “Good stuff, just skipping and just working together as a group, my dad as well. It doesn’t take much to be able to get in shape. It just shows to stay in shape you need dedication and discipline. Luckily we’re all in the same sport so it’s been really good.”
Daniel is an imposing heavyweight, Caroline a young lightweight, so while they support each other, there’s no touch or technique sparring. “No, no, she’s too good for me now,” he laughed.
The pandemic has stalled Caroline’s career just as significantly as Daniel. She was one bout into the Olympic qualification tournament in London in March when the event was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. “She’s a true champion and a true champion fighter. She’d never let anything put her down for too long, pretty much. Step back, find new targets, try not to get too heavy or put on too much weight, stay in decent shape,” Daniel observed. “She’s just got to keep her options open and stay focused and stay driven.”
Dubois could have found himself in a similar position. As an 18-year-old there was real excitement about him on the amateur circuit. But instead of waiting for the Olympics, he turned professional to pursue his ambition for a world heavyweight title. He doesn’t regret deciding to skip a four year Olympic cycle to turn over. “Imagine that [waiting as an amateur]. I’m glad professional boxing’s back, we can finally start getting it back on,” he said.
While admittedly Dubois now finds himself just tuning up for that October contest with Joe Joyce, he was not overly impressed with his London rival’s outing against Michael Wallisch last month. “Wallisch, he wasn’t really up to the job. Looked like he wanted to get out there before it started. It won’t make a difference. I’ve got a job, I’ve got a fight in front of me and I’m really confident I’m going to do it professionally,” Dubois said. “It’s only going to prepare me even more for Joe and when I’m facing him, he won’t know what’s coming.”
“Joe’s just Joe. He never really looks good or anything. He just comes in there, he’s never going to change. Just Joe. I can’t really say anything else,” he added. “You can’t really point out any things he does really that look good but he got the job done. That’s the main thing.”
His clash with Joyce, when it comes, will be decisive. Well matched rivals, the victor will inevitably move on to fight at world level. Despite appearances, Joyce is formidable. The approach he takes is no great secret: he sets a ferocious pace for a heavyweight and hurls a tremendous volume of punches. That doesn’t make it is easy to diffuse, especially once he’s built momentum and settled into his rhythm.
“We will be prepared to go the distance and win every round. If we’re there for 12 rounds, we’ll win every round. That’s what I’m preparing myself to do. The objective is to win,” Dubois warned.
But against Wallisch, ring rust could be seen in Joyce’s work, notably in the opening round when he casually let punches through his defence. Those were openings that Dubois observed with relish. “Definitely, if a first round knockout or an early knockout presents itself, I’m all for it. Never let any opportunity go amiss. Every opportunity, every point and target I can see. I’m going to take it,” Daniel said.
In this magazine previously Joyce has called Dubois “predictable and basic”. But neither man truly is an enthusiastic trash talker. One suspects there is an underlying respect between the two. “I’m not sure where he’s getting it, to say these things. I don’t know. Boxing people, they talk. This is the sport. We have to try and say something. He’s really not got anything based off of that. I can’t speak for him. I’m just being me and what he sees is down to him,” Dubois said.
“Any man that puts the gloves on, I’ve got to respect him. Because it’s not an easy thing. It’s a test of character and a test of strength. So all boxers, we all have that sort of respect.”
After a long training camp, Dubois would have to go straight back into camp for that October 24 fight. “We’ll see. If it’s a first round knockout [on Saturday], we’ll be back in the gym the next day,” he said. “Really I’m just focusing on this first guy, August 29. But that fight is being lined up so it’s always going to be in the back of my mind. Since it was announced first, it never goes away. It’s constantly in my mind.”
While he wants to move quickly, Dubois’ career is being plotted deliberately. When he turned over the teenager wanted to win a world title as quickly as possible. But now he has set his sights on a sequence of high profile heavyweight fights. “[Mike] Tyson was 20 I think, when he won the world title, so me breaking the record is not my priority any more anyway. We’ve got to take our time, we’ll get there,” he said. “Really I wasn’t in a rush. I want to win every fight at a time. Enjoy every fight at a time. When the time happens, it’ll come.”
“The sport has changed. We’re making great match ups now,” he adds. “Just fighting the best out there, to prove I’m the best, will be amazing, belt or no belt.”
Beyond Joyce, promoter Frank Warren is talking about working with promotional rivals Matchroom to pit Dubois against Dillian Whyte. “Very interesting. I’m all for it. I want to be the best, I got to beat the best. So I’ve got to beat all of them, from Joe, this guy I’m fighting, all of them. Come one, come all. Just be ready. Right now it’s talk, you know. It’s good talk. If they can pull that off, that would be amazing, a truly historic show. That’s a good fight,” Daniel said. “He [Whyte] is a tough guy, he’s definitely a tough man. He’s got through with not the most skills or anything but the toughness and determination is there, proven… What he does obviously works for him. So he doesn’t need it, it seems.
“He’s come through some good fights. He’s come through some very good fights.”
The ultimate goal for Dubois would be to see Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury box to decide an undisputed champion and eventually to challenge the victor himself. “That would be amazing,” Dubois reflected. “That’s the ideal scenario.”
He had a spar with Fury back when the WBC heavyweight champion was returning to fitness at the beginning of his comeback. He’s had rounds too a few years ago in Sheffield with Anthony Joshua. Dubois is tipping Fury to win that potential clash with Joshua. “Fury right now is looking good, he’s proven he’s one of the top men out there now, I think, with his style and everything else,” Dubois said. “It’s still going to be a great fight, proper fight and would just be a great match up to see.”
Sharing a promoter with Fury would make that a good result for Dubois too. “It’s one day at a time. As long as I’m in the gym and I’m doing my runs, doing my work, feeling good and feeling positive I’ll just carry that same attitude to anything I do,” he says.
“Just focus on the task ahead and prepare for it. I just want to shine.”