On Thursday, I asked the question of age versus experience in the upcoming Dubois–Joyce showdown. Dubois’ freshness, hunger and exclamation point of a right hand, versus Joyce’s stellar amateur career, durability and skill. All undeniably played a part inside Church House, Westminster on Saturday night, but over nine and a bit rounds of absorbing heavyweight action it boiled down to two things: Joe Joyce’s jab and Daniel Dubois’ heart.
One broke the other. Well, to some degree. Daniel Dubois’ left eye was beginning to swell and close fairly early in the contest, leaving the youngster unable to see properly out of it by the bell for the tenth round. Joyce’s umpteenth stiff left to the tender face of Dubois caused the pre-fight favourite to take a knee, unwilling to return to his feet after referee Ian John Lewis counted to eight. Dubois rose as a token gesture, but he was done, and so were his hopes of retaining the prized Lonsdale belt.
“I have to be honest, he quit, he took a knee,” said Carl Frampton in punditry. “I had him a point up. It was a close fight.”
As much as I agree with the nuts and bolts of the “Jackal’s” opinion, I am not willing to call Daniel Dubois a quitter from the comfort of my laptop. The youngster dared to mix it with a man twice as competent as anyone he’s previously danced with, came up short, and decided to save himself for another day. He isn’t the first and won’t be the last.
I guess it’s harder to swallow for fans of Dubois considering the nature of the stoppage. Dubois was up on two of the three cards – the less said about the card that had Dubois up by eight rounds, the better – and only had to survive another eight and a half minutes to be in with a shot of stumbling over the line. Visually impaired, this is easier said than done. Dubois has never faced that kind of heat inside a ring before. He panicked. I can’t blame him.
An orbital bone injury has become engrained in our boxing language since Kell Brook and Naoya Inoue suffered fractures and Dubois chose to prioritise the next ~15 years of his career ahead of one night. On another day, another fighter may have chosen to rise to his feet, get pummelled in the corner and waited for their trainer or a referee to step in – same outcome, but a fabricated narrative of “going out on your shield” resonates kindly.
“Joe’s in the driving seat now,” Warren said later to the BT Sport cameras, unable to mask his disappointment in the evening’s result. Warren made no attempt to hide his bias between two of his stable going toe-to-toe. Dubois was the man Warren was hanging his trilby on, and immediate talks of a rematch from the promoter sat awkwardly with me. This was Joe’s night. Rather than sewing the seeds for a rematch and a chance for his preferred charge to gain revenge, Warren should have been championing the “Juggernaut”. A rematch with Oleksandr Usyk – Usyk outpointed Joyce in a 2013 WSB contest – makes perfect sense at this stage in Joyce’s career. It’s not hard to argue as Joyce being favoured in that contest, considering Usyk is still adapting to life as a heavyweight. But that debate is for another day.
Joyce boxed his perfect fight. Dubois looked like a man without the professional hardware needed to make such a big step up in quality. A reluctance to double up on his jab and work the body of Joyce made the veteran’s job a lot easier without having to divert from plan A. Questions have to be asked of Dubois’ previous matchmaking, and the decision to jump in with a man that has seen every style the sport has to offer. Your Fujimotos, Tettehs and Snijders may well have been used as belt-collecting cannon fodder by Queensbury, but they did very little to sharpen and develop the tools of a growing, young heavyweight.
Dubois will heal up, come again, and address fundamental shortcomings. Head movement is so important as a heavyweight and his reliance on the right-hand equaliser made his attacks fairly predictable against a mover and shaker.
Joyce deserves a big opportunity on the world stage, and at 35 will be in a rush to secure it. Whether a stiff jab and a concrete chin will be enough to trouble the top tier of heavyweights is yet to be seen, but he’s taken his seat at the table whilst pulling Dubois’ from underneath him.