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Oleksandr Usyk vs. Daniel Dubois: Post-fight thoughts

On 26th August 2023 Oleksandr Usyk defeated Daniel Dubois by 9th round stoppage at the the Stadion Wrocław in Wrocław, Poland to retain the IBF, WBO, IBO, WBA (Super) and The Ring heavyweight boxing titles. The bout was made controversial by what was ruled as a low blow by Dubois in the 5th round, taking Usyk out of action for almost 4 minutes. Referee Luis Pabon gave no count to Usyk and allowed him to continue once he had recovered, eventually culminating in an 8th round knockdown of Dubois and a 9th round KO.

Before the bout the overwhelming consensus was that Oleksandr Usyk would emerge victorious. Daniel Dubois had previously been stopped by the much slower, albeit super tough Joe Joyce. Usyk, while smaller than Joyce, is a pound-for-pound great who’d supposedly run circles around the young, up-and-coming Dubois. Some felt it was premature to put Dubois in the ring with someone of Usyk’s calibre, but as Dubois’ trainer Don Charles pronounced passionately, opportunities like this don’t come round often. “We recognize what an opportunity it is and we’ve grown an extra pair of arms to seize the opportunity.” It was something they had to take.

While most boxing fans felt Usyk would win, a contingent felt he was still untested in the heavyweight division. Some say Chazz Witherspoon wasn’t a contender to begin with, that Derek Chisora exposed many of Usyk’s weaknesses and that Anthony Joshua isn’t the same heavyweight monster he once was prior to the Andy Ruiz defeat. How would Usyk handle the power of someone who would really let his hands go? Some fans even predicted a Daniel Dubois KO victory. It turns out ‘lettings one’s hands go’ would play a much greater role than anticipated.

The controversial 5th round low blow, Oleksandr Usyk vs Daniel Dubois
The controversial 5th round shot

Although the Oleksandr Usyk vs Daniel Dubois bout was a one-sided affair, it wasn’t a complete walkover as many had predicted. As elusive as Usyk is, he is prone to being caught. We can look at how marked up his face was in his first fight with Anthony Joshua; a fight that people similarly felt was one-sided. Dubois did have his moments, managing to land the same number of power punches as Usyk in rounds 1-3 and actually landing more than him in rounds 4-6.

But it’s in round 5 where things really took off. As soon as Daniel Dubois landed the body shot that dropped Oleksandr Usyk, referee Luis Pabon immediately labelled it a low blow. But was it in fact an illegal shot? As ESPN commentators reviewed replays of the shot while Usyk was recovering, they acknowledged “That looks like it’s right on the belt line.” If Usyk didn’t have the almost-4 minutes of recovery time, how would the fight have gone? Would he have beaten the 10 count? If so, how would he have fared in a clearly weakened state against a hungry Dubois?

Pundits, fighters and fans have chimed in with their thoughts. Former super-bantamweight and featherweight champion Carl Frampton believes Dubois landed a legal shot and should be Unified Heavyweight Champion. Boxing pundit Dan Rafael disagreed and tweeted that it was 100% a low blow. But other fighters such as former Unified Light Welterweight World Champion Amir Khan and former Undisputed Super Lightweight Champion Josh Taylor felt it was a legal body shot.

Amir Khan tweeting about the Oleksandr Usyk vs Daniel Dubois controversial low blow / body shot.
Not a low blow according to Amir Khan.
Josh Taylor tweeting about the Oleksandr Usyk vs Daniel Dubois controversial low blow / body shot.
A legal shot according to Josh Taylor.

Fans are divided on the matter, with little consensus in sight. Dubois’ trainer Don Charles was furious after the fight and labelled Oleksandr Usyk’s ‘acting’ as cheating; an accusation that Usyk fans aren’t particularly impressed with. Promoter of Dubois, Frank Warren, has called for the result to be annulled and for a rematch to be issued, touching on the corruption problem that plagues the world of boxing. “We’re not stupid. I’ve been around long enough. You’re coming into the other guy’s backyard… he’s a Ukranian hero… but this tonight is about sport. This is about two superb fighters in the ring and there should have been a legitimate outcome, and there wasn’t.

The impact on Daniel Dubois’ reputation will be mixed. Some will think he performed better than expected, particularly as many fans didn’t even entertain the possibility of him winning. But following the controversy of the 5th round low blow / body shot, some of these same detractors will now believe Dubois to be the rightful Unified Heavyweight Champion. Others, however, will go for blood. Just like in his performance against Joe Joyce, they’ll say Daniel Dubois quit against Oleksandr Usyk. He’s a quitter and doesn’t have the mentality of a champion. It’s worth pointing out that Dubois rejects criticism of being called a quitter. “I looked at my corner, they said, ‘Wait, and get up,’ and I got up. I didn’t quit… I was ready to continue.

This contest, although a victory for Oleksandr Usyk, is likely to play in Tyson Fury’s favour. Boxing fans have increasingly become fed up of Fury’s antics, accusing him of ducking Usyk and choosing to fight former UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou; someone who’s never had a professional boxing match. People have been waiting for an Undisputed clash between Fury and Usyk, wondering who would win in a fight between two undefeated, elite champions, however Fury is accused of holding up the division. Despite Fury’s recent fall from grace, more fans are convinced, especially following Usyk vs Dubois, that if a match-up were to ever take place, Fury would steamroll Usyk. At 6’9 269 lbs, Fury’s movement, skill and sheer size may be too much for Usyk to overcome. If Daniel Dubois was able to land flush on Usyk, what would happen if a fighter like Deontay Wilder were to land?

These questions are a big part of what makes professional sport so exciting. We can speculate. We can make bold assumptions. But until it happens, many people see a victory for both Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury. As 2023 has shown, dream match-ups such as Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr and Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia are being made, and maybe fans will finally get to see an Undisputed Heavyweight Champion since Lennox Lewis.

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