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Preview: Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce offers up true heavyweight intrigue on Saturday

Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce are both unbeaten, both want a title shot, and both looking to prove something on Saturday.

Daniel Dubois v Joe Joyce Press Conference Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

If you just look at the records, Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce would appear to have plenty in common as far as their standing in the boxing game.

Dubois (15-0, 14 KO) turned pro in Apr. 2017, and has pretty much dominated thus far, beating the likes of Razvan Cojanu and Richard Lartey, with a 2019 victory over Nathan Gorman his clear highlight. Gorman, who was unbeaten at the time, had some supporters going into that fight who thought his boxing IQ or something would befuddle Dubois. It did not. Dubois wrecked him and finished him in five rounds. What was supposed to be a sincere domestic test was another steamrolling.

On that same card at London’s O2 Arena, Joyce (11-0, 10 KO) had a tougher time. Turning pro in Oct. 2017 after a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, the “Juggernaut” battled past Bryant Jennings in a fight that was a good bit closer than two of the cards might lead one to think. Jennings is a former world title challenger who’s had a solid career, and it may simple be true that style-wise, Jennings was just a tougher matchup for Joyce than Gorman was for Dubois.

Personally, I don’t want to take everything from that one night, and there’s little else to really read into on either of their records. Other than Gorman, Dubois has largely bashed through people meant to be bashed through, same for Joyce with Jennings, whose other “notable” win came over former WBC titlist Bermane Stiverne in Feb. 2019, but Stiverne was 20 pounds overweight and didn’t seem like he much wanted to be there after he threw caution to the wind in round one.

The records are what they are, and would lead you to believe this is sort of a prospect vs prospect bout, similar to what we saw years ago with George Groves and James DeGale at 168 pounds, for instance.

But as simple as it is, there’s a big, big difference between these two fighters: Dubois is 23 years old, and Joyce is 35.

How to Watch Dubois vs Joyce

Date: Saturday, Nov. 28 | Start Time: 2:00 pm ET
Location: Church House - Westminster, London, England
TV: BT Sport (UK) | Stream: ESPN+ (US)
Live Online Coverage:

Now listen, Joyce being 35 in the heavyweight division isn’t by itself a scary number or anything of the sort. He was a late comer to boxing, not taking it up until he was 22, when a track and field career was ended due to injuries. Seven years later, he won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, took gold at the European Games and bronze at the World Championships in 2015, and a controversial silver at the 2016 Olympics. He also competed in the World Series of Boxing. He’s faced a lot of very talented competition over the years.

Boxing at The O2 Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

When you watch Joyce, which is the key thing, it’s definitely not hard to pick out flaws. He is big and heavy, listed at 6’6” with an 80-inch reach, but just an absolute oak of a man, a huge, sturdy athlete. He was 270 pounds for a July win over Michael Wallisch, but that was after a year out and a global pandemic throwing boxing and everything else out of whack. He was 256 against Jennings a year prior, and it’s likely he’ll be in the mid-250s to low-260s when he weighs in on Friday.

All of that doesn’t quite tell the story of just what kind of physical specimen he is, though. Tyson Fury is officially 6’9” and we’ve seen him at 255 and 275 and 245, and Fury never looks like some dangerous pro boxer. Joyce is a tank.

Unfortunately, perhaps, he also moves like one. He is slow of foot and slow of hand. He has defensive lapses he has been able to make up for with what appears to be an extremely sturdy chin. Fury is awkwardly graceful, far more agile and athletic than you would think of him at first blush. Joyce isn’t necessarily robotic or stiff like, say, the Klitschkos could occasionally be, either; he is simply slow and ponderous, like a shrunken Nikolay Valuev.

But he’s tough to hurt, and he also keeps a very high workrate. In that sense, he can be sort of like a huge version of Alfredo Angulo. So a hybrid Valuev-Angulo. This is an odd thing to be.

Dubois took up boxing as a boy, as is more often the case for top prospects. He didn’t have near the amateur experience Joyce did, having a reported 75 or so amateur fights overall. There was a plan for him to be part of the 2020 Olympics, but he went pro in 2017 instead.

Dubois has a pro style. He’s explosive, athletic, a big guy himself at a listed 6’5” and coming in around 240 pounds usually, though next to Joyce he has looked kind of small. It’s hoped that he will be a big star, and you can see why. He passes the eye test, the power is natural and can be very sudden, and he seems to have legitimate natural gifts beyond the power, stuff that he can use to polish his overall game as he gets older and gains more experience.

Boxing at The O2 Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

The experience could be a big factor. The Joyce team believe that their guy can put the sort of pressure on Dubois that he hasn’t dealt with and won’t know how to handle. Joyce isn’t going to start dancing around and flustering Dubois with speed, but his heavy jabs could give Dubois some pause, and something as (in theory) simple as getting in close and even just leaning on Dubois and slowing him down could pay off not just in weathering Dubois early, but in depleting his gas tank. Dubois has only gone past the fifth round once.

This isn’t an eliminator for any title, but the winner will be the European, British, and Commonwealth champion, will win the WBC’s “silver” title and have a high ranking there, and probably will wind up the No. 2 contender with the WBO, which Dubois already is (Joyce is No. 11 coming in). There is a lot on the line here.

For Dubois, it’s another chance to prove he might be the heavyweight contender on the rise. For Joyce, listen, if he’s going to start making his move, it’s now. 35 isn’t ancient at heavyweight — or in boxing in general anymore — but it ain’t 23, either. Just for the sake of discussion, Dubois could lose this fight and bounce back with a lot of time to improve. Joyce doesn’t have that window. His is small. A loss to Dubois doesn’t shut it, but it hurts his chances of even getting to a world title fight significantly, let alone actually winning a world title.

It is a rare truly fascinating matchup. I think you can have very strong feelings for one man to win this over the other, but it’s not a mismatch on paper, both of these guys have legitimate hopes, and they’re also both still relatively unproven.

We don’t often tell you, “Hey, this is a fight that if it’s not quite on your radar, really consider putting some time aside to watch it.” I would with this one, particularly if you’re a fan of the heavyweights. We could see a 23-year-old dynamo continue what looks to be a rapid rise in the division, or we might see a dangerous 35-year-old ready to make his mark. And style-wise, we should have some action here, too.

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