Oleksandr Usyk stops Daniel Dubois in nine amid low-blow controversy
If the teams behind Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois remained divided after the ninth-round stoppage with which the Ukrainian defended his IBF, WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine titles, the only mystery left unsolved was how Dubois truly felt.
His trainer, Don Charles, was for a period the angriest individual at Stadion Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, and his promoter, Frank Warren, the consummate professional, starting calling for the fight to be reclassified as a no-contest or for a rematch to be staged. If it was just as predictable that Alex Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter, and the champion would be dismissive of suggestions about an injustice, Dubois’ absence meant that the challenger couldn’t even have been asked about his intent.
The punch the 25-year-old landed on Usyk’s belt line in the fifth round – which dropped Usyk so heavily he appeared unlikely to recover – had been just low enough that the referee, Luis Pabon, was correct not to call it a knockdown and therefore give Usyk time to recover, and yet just high enough that the champion can be grateful that he made the correct call.
Dubois, whose team – including Usyk’s former trainer James Ali Bashir – had prepared him to be as physical as possible, was regardless alone in knowing the height at which he had intended to throw.
That Usyk required so long to convincingly recover from the right hand landed by the heavy-handed heavyweight demonstrated the logic in Charles, in his first fight as Dubois’ trainer, and Bashir drilling him as they had – and yet also the extent to which they had risked being naive.
At a city 300 miles from the border with Ukraine – one inhabited by thousands of displaced Ukrainians – and against the defending champion two days after Ukrainian Independence Day, it seemed unlikely that the referee would give the challenger the freedom that he would need. The immediate reaction that followed the stoppage in the ninth round – another concussive right hand led to Pabon rescuing Dubois in the round after an assault from Usyk had forced him to take a knee – ensured that neither Dubois’ ambition or Usyk’s resilience were being recognized, and instead were being overlooked as a consequence of the debate surrounding whether Usyk should already have been stopped.
“Daniel is very upset,” said Warren, also the co-promoter of WBC titleholder Tyson Fury. “He won’t even come here. He’s so disappointed and I feel that for him.
“We will be lobbying the WBA (Dubois was the WBA’s mandatory challenger) to declare this a no-contest. The knockdown, which the judge said was below the belt – you can look back and see where the punch landed. The waistband of his shorts.
“This is about sport. It’s about two superb fighters in a ring. It should have been a legitimate outcome and it wasn’t. It should be a no-contest or, at worse, a rematch ordered.
“It’s like you have to win a fight twice and that’s not right. You win it once.”
“I’ve usually got a lot to say, but I’m speechless,” said Charles. “My boy Daniel Dubois has left the building. He’s distraught. He’s a young man aspiring to do great things in life, in boxing. When we have technology, it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. That’s called faking it, and the referee fell for it.”
The loyal Charles will likely go to his grave arguing that his fighter had been unjustly denied victory, but if the perceived vulnerability betrayed by Usyk finally leads to terms for the undisputed title fight with the WBC champion being made, Warren is likely to be significantly less invested in what he had just seen.
He will have recognized that the near-chasm in experience and technical ability had meant Usyk winning almost every minute of every other round. If Dubois was the significant underdog his reputation – and his profile, unquestionably – may even have been enhanced in defeat.
“If he wants it, I want it,” the 36-year-old Usyk responded when asked about the sought-after fight with Fury, before returning to the subject of Dubois with his tongue firmly in his cheek. “But let him not hit me below the belt.
“Boxing is sport. It’s not a street fight. I’m ready to fight [Dubois] tomorrow. In a rematch. In the street fight. Not boxing gloves but a street fight. Only fists.”
Against a younger, bigger, fresher and more powerful heavyweight – not unlike during his successive victories over the revered former champion Anthony Joshua – Usyk’s speed of thought, foot and hands had again consistently impressed. Terence Crawford’s masterclass in last month’s victory over Errol Spence had led to the welterweight widely being considered the world’s finest active fighter; Usyk, regardless, has long seemed concerned only with proving himself superior to Fury, and with being an ambassador for his war-torn country at so difficult a time.
“These people are incredible,” said Usyk, who consistently impressed with both left and right hands and the jab. “Special, special people. I thank you, my country. I thank you, my followers. It’s great. Thank you so much.
“We have some big troubles in Ukraine. The war is in Ukraine. And for those guys who are defending out country on the front line, it’s a breath of fresh air. And I am ready to give all of my fresh air to my people.”
Aadam Hamed, the 23-year-old son of “Prince” Naseem, had earlier defeated Vojtech Hrdy of the Czech Republic on the occasion of his professional debut, at junior welterweight. Hrdy, 17, had offered minimal resistance; the first time he was backed into a corner, Hamed started letting his hands go and the towel imminently followed from the teenager’s corner.
There was also a unanimous decision victory for Denys Berinchyk over Anthony Yigit. The Ukrainian was awarded scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 116-112.
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