THERE’S a fine line between a heavyweight mismatch and a heavyweight masterclass. But there was no mistaking Daniel Dubois’ latest outing for anything other than the former. Plenty on social media grumbled about it. Even the BT Sport commentary team of John Rawling and Richie Woodhall did not attempt to dress it up as anything more than a knock-over at the bout’s conclusion (after the stretched comparison with Dillian Whyte coming unstuck the previous weekend against perennial dangerman Alexander Povetkin had been overly spun by the marketeers in the build-up).
Comparing Povetkin to blown-up cruiserweight Ricardo Snijders, even before the opening bell sounded and fears about the Dutchman’s inability at this level were quickly realised, was like comparing a succulent cut of t-bone steak to a tin of stewed beef.
All that said, in heavyweight boxing – as Steve Bunce identified on BBC Five Live’s (Mike) Costello and Bunce podcast – mismatches like this are part and parcel of the division’s history. One only has to look at some of Frank Bruno’s opponents along the way: Fall guys like John Emmen and Chuck Gardner immediately spring to mind. And remember when Riddick Bowe feasted on a blatantly shot Michael Dokes? And that was for meaningful world titles.
Promoter Frank Warren was put in a difficult position when the more suitable Erik Pfeifer pulled out of with less than a fortnight to go. You have a fighter like Dubois, one of the sport’s hottest prospects, who is eager to fight with the promise of a payday. A young and unbeaten heavyweight KO artist whose name at the top of a bill will generate interest irrespective of who is in the opposite corner. A fighter like Dubois who is being moved towards a showdown with Joe Joyce next month; the same Joyce, don’t forget, who devoured Michael Wallisch only a few weeks before. Anyone expecting to see a more threatening fighter than Snijders brought in with only days to go was thinking way too optimistically.
Number one: Nobody among the leading 30 – maybe even 50 – heavyweights in the world would have wanted that fight at short notice for the money on offer nor would they have been ready. Number two: When the world is in the midst of a pandemic it becomes an altogether bigger place, jetting in a reliable stalwart from America, for example, is simply not an option. Number three: More than ever, heavyweight boxing is a business and Daniel Dubois represents prime real estate for Warren. Only a fool would have put him in a fight that nobody was paying to see – two months before a projected fight that plenty will pay to see – against someone who could feasibly have beaten him. Dubois did exactly what was expected and so too did Snijders. But does that make it okay? Indeed, besides getting some experience of fighting behind closed doors it’s doubtful Dubois got much from it that he couldn’t get from the gym.
Furthermore, if one has to revisit fights like Bruno-Emmen and Bowe-Dokes as justification for Dubois-Snijders then we could be in trouble. But there is also a fourth point to consider and that is Dubois’ age and experience. The teams of Bruno and Bowe were matching established world class boxers with inept opposition. Dubois – though we’re told he will go on to rule the world – is far from proven at that level because he is yet to fight at that level. His biggest win to date came over countryman Nathan Gorman in a British title fight. He is 22 years old, he has limited amateur experience and this was only his 15th professional contest. Every single prospect who has walked the face of the boxing world chewed up overmatched opposition on their way up.
On the same bill were two excellently matched bouts: Sam Maxwell-Joe Hughes and Sunny Edwards-Tomas Essomba. Either would have been a more palatable bill-topper for the hardcore fan but neither would have pulled in the viewers like Dubois appears to have done.
But there’s only so many times the public will fall for opponents like Snijders – something that Warren and co are already acutely aware of, as the plans to match him with Joyce surely prove.