A shot at the heavyweight championship of the world was once the very pinnacle of sport itself. Sylvester Stallone built an iconic movie franchise on that essential truth. The Simpsons then pilfered liberally from it for one of their finest episodes. Losing several and winning one such title shot catapulted Frank Bruno into Britain’s hearts and onto its pantomime stages. While the now-fractured crown lacks the world-stopping power it held in Zaire, Manila or Springfield there is still something inimitable about two men fighting to be crowned the baddest man on the planet.
Well it looks like the next WBA heavyweight title fight could stop the world, but only because Daniel Dubois wants to get off. ‘Dynamite’ is the sanctioning body’s mandated challenger for WBA, WBO, IBF and The Ring heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. Despite the fight being ostensibly mandatory, there is doubt in the industry over whether it will actually take place.
Much has been made of the fact that WBA number two Deontay Wilder is waiting in the wings if Dubois does not take the Usyk fight. It is a state of affairs the WBA have confirmed. But Usyk-Wilder is complicated somewhat by the fact the American is also in talks for a bout with Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia later this year. While that fight would of course be more attractive with the unified heavyweight championship on the line, taking on Usyk and Joshua back-to-back seems unlikely for Wilder. If he does step in for Dubois, one would assume the ‘AJ’ fight would be scuppered.
But why is there even talk of Dubois forgoing the fight? Surely securing a shot at Usyk is everything he has worked for? It is not always that simple. For a start, he’s coming off a fight where he was knocked down three times by middling heavyweight Kevin Lerena. Not the best preparation for a battle with arguably the best heavyweight on the planet, even if he did come back to stop ‘The KO Kid’ in three rounds.
In that same fight, Dubois also picked up a gruesome injury. An ACL tear has been blamed for the frequency of his visits to the canvas in that disastrous bout. The ailment has kept Dubois on the shelf for almost six months now. Ligament damage is not to be taken lightly and it is absolutely necessary for Dubois to remain out of the ring until he is 100% fit to return. Perhaps, with question marks over his recovery looming large, ‘Dynamite’ Dubois would prefer to test the knee against lesser opposition than the Hall of Fame-bound Usyk?
As if this wasn’t disruption enough, Dubois’ trainer has thrown in the towel. Not on his fighter’s involvement but, unusually, on his own. Shane McGuigan will not be cornering Dubois against Usyk or anybody else. Some have taken this as McGuigan resigning himself to the Mission: Impossible that lies ahead. That he has absconded through a lack of faith. At this point the actual cause is almost immaterial. The fact it hasn’t been stated has created a vacuum into which people have poured their own perceptions of the situation.
Don Charles will take over corner duties for Dubois. The long-time trainer of Derek Chisora has experience of navigating two world title shots for ‘Del Boy’, albeit both ended in defeat. Whether Charles has a third world title fight as his first assignment with Dubois remains to be seen.
Fighting for the heavyweight championship is supposed to be the pinnacle of this great and unusual sport. Dubois might argue he is already a champion, holding the WBA ‘regular’ bauble as he does. But this strange situation only serves to further highlight the ridiculousness of that secondary title. ‘Dynamite’ picked up that title against the decidedly non-world class Trevor Bryan. But in doing so it put him in the path of a generational talent like Usyk. It is a path he seems to have no desire to be in. The heavyweight championship used to stop the world. But right now, it feels like Dubois just wants the heavyweight championship talk to stop.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change