They call Daniel Dubois ‘Dynamite’ but he’s going to need a heavier artillery than that to beat WBA, IBF, WBO and The Ring heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday. Dubois could turn up in a tank and you could still imagine the wonderful Ukrainian champion artfully dodging the blast with a swivel of his hips. Usyk has mastered ring generalship and still exerts it with a subtle beauty aged 36.
So is Private Dubois facing a mission impossible as he travels to Wroclaw, Poland for the biggest fight of his life? Ask the bookmakers and they’d tell you so. Betfred’s 6/1 certainly isn’t the longest price a heavyweight challenger has endured, but Usyk’s 1/10 represents the feelings surrounding this bout.
Despite, or perhaps because of, his WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight bauble, few are giving Dubois a chance here. Usyk has barely put a foot wrong in a 20-0 career. The Ukrainian ‘Cat’ is a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, last seen at that weight pounding our own Tony Bellew to an 8th round TKO defeat.
Since moving to heavyweight, he has been near-flawless. Chazz Witherspoon was knocked out in seven rounds while Derek Chisora was outpointed in a second fact-finding mission. After this introduction to the land of the big men, Usyk eradicated his final sceptics with back-to-back decision wins over Anthony Joshua to annex three-quarters of the heavyweight crown.
This is what Dubois walks into in Poland on Saturday. His own record is anaemic in comparison. Whatever his belt says, he is not a credible heavyweight champion of the world. The fact he won the trinket by beating the incredibly limited Trevor Bryan tells you that. The clubbing he took in defeat to Joe Joyce in 2020 and his three trips to the canvas in beating Kevin Lerena last December do not bode well either.
But Dubois has a lot of positive attributes that are perhaps being lost in the misdirected condemnation. Fans hate this fight because Dubois isn’t Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder. They expected more from Usyk’s next bout and instead have got a mandatory obligation against a 25-year-old challenger who isn’t quite ready for this challenge.
And he isn’t ready, that much is true. The component parts of the fighter he could become haven’t quite crystallised, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Dubois boasts tremendous power, accounting for 18 knockouts from 19 victories. There are questions to be answered over his durability, but Usyk might not be the man to test it. The champion has one stoppage in four heavyweight outings.
Dubois is young for a heavyweight and improving all the time. But most importantly, he is hungry and has nothing to lose. A defeat to a top-three pound-for-pound fighter will not end his career. The experience may actually improve his skillset. This allows Dubois a platform to go for broke. As we’ve seen in the past, heavyweight challengers have a way of pulling out upset wins with their backs against the wall.
James J. Braddock stunned Max Baer, and the world, to raise the title in 1935. James ‘Buster’ Douglas dissipated the Mike Tyson aura in a Tokyo ring in 1990. Hasim Rahman bounced the great Lennox Lewis off the canvas in South Africa in 2001. Andy Ruiz Jr brought about the beginning of the end for Anthony Joshua in 2019. All the beaten men were heavily favoured. Legends of the ring. But all were beaten by the fistic equivalent of mere mortals.
The nature of heavyweight boxing, the sport’s biggest men exchanging boxing’s hardest punches, means these upsets are more likely than in any other division. Dubois certainly brings power to the ring. Joshua did too, but he was too cautious to use it on the much-smaller Usyk. If Dubois casts aside that reluctance, if he can find his ‘Buster’ or Rahman shot, he could turn boxing on its head.
In all likelihood, he won’t. But isn’t that why we have the fights? It’s time to stop pretending every memorable bout in history was a 50-50 pick’em going in. No, Dubois isn’t Wilder, Fury or whoever else you think Usyk should be fighting. But he is a promising knockout artist with something to prove. As a weary Lennox or ‘Iron’ Mike would be at pains to tell you, sometimes that’s enough.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change