By Alan Hubbard
No doubt during the many hours he spent ruefully reflecting on that ambition-crushing defeat by Joe Joyce last November, Daniel Dubois will have been comforted by the knowledge that he has history on his side.
Since taking it on the chin – or in his case the left eye socket – and now having to reconstruct his career, he is in good company. From Joe Louis through to Anthony Joshua, such heavyweight luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Joe Bugner, Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir have all had to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and start all over again at some stage in their careers.
So at 23, Dubois, once hailed as the best young heavyweight in the world, must take heart – and not lose it. Many are convinced he did against Olympic silver medallist Joyce. He took the knee and was counted out in what now seems to have been an involuntary but sensible career-preserving move.
It so happens I am not among those who were quick to condemn the south Londoner for ‘cowardice’, as the medical reports eventually indicated it was an horrific vision-impairing, injury on a par with that sustained by Vitali Klitschko against Lewis – and no one called the current mayor of Kiev a quitter.
Nonetheless it was a blow not only to Dynamite Dan’s unblemished features but his self-esteem. This is something he must recover convincingly from when he returns to do combat with the hefty Romanian Bogdan Dinu in Saturday’s Queensbury show televised live by BT.
No doubt he would’ve been reminded of how, for instance, Bugner suffered a quick KO defeat in his first pro bout but went onto twice dally with Ali, once for the world title. And also of how Just four fights after he had been himself flattened in the first round by unknown Breidis Prescott, Amir Khan became a world super lightweight champion.
After splitting with long-term mentor Martin Bowers and the briefest association with Mark Tibbs, Dubois Is now taking tuition from Shane McGuigan, whose track record as a young coach is outstanding. It might be said Dubois is getting through more trainers than Mo Farah’s feet and it will be interesting to see how Barry’s boy copes with the omnipresence of Dubois senior. Dan Has been very much a dad’s lad up to now and many in the business believe that, like Chris Eubank Jr, he might benefit by being more of his own man in future.
It is heartening to note that Dubois, still managed my Bowers and promoted by Frank Warren – has elected to fight a decent opponent in the US-based Romanian, winner of all but two of his 22 contests and rated (arguably a tad overrated) at number two by the WBA, rather than a pushover from Palookavile.
Dinu’s two defeats were inflicted by the American Jarrell Miller and recent world title contender Kubrat Pulev, both of whom would have represented a huge step up for Dubois before the Joyce setback.
Dubois possesses the physique, athleticism, technique – remember he was ahead on points at the time he took a knee against Joyce – and most significantly the punch for a world heavyweight champion elect. Does he still have the appetite for it?
“I am determined to show that I can still fulfil my dreams,” he says. “This is why I did not want a soft touch for my return to the ring, I promise you it will be explosive.”
He seems a more relaxed figure these past few weeks, more comfortable within himself and more open in his interviews. Maybe not such a shock that he has become Dan the Man.