By Alan Hubbard
I do not go along with those among my esteemed fellow scribes and several senior fight figures who virtually accused Daniel Dubois of ‘cowardice’ when he allowed himself to be counted out on one knee, surrendering the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles to Joe Joyce because of a grotesquely damaged left eye at the weekend.
Seconds after Joyce had been declared the winner, the three belts wrapped around him, came the howls of derision from many in the game, accusing him of ‘swallowing it’. Carl Frampton, a two-weight world champion, one of the BT pundits declared: “You would’ve had to drag me out of the ring before I did anything like that.” Alongside him another former world champion, heavyweight David Haye, who is a former advisor to Joyce said: “I was very unhappy with the way Dubois took the knee. I would rather get knocked out.” Chris Eubank jnr tweeted his ;disgust’ at how it ended. Such knee-jerk reaction.
The cruel condemnation of the humbled Dubois continued thick and fast. There were those who reminded us of the bravery of fighters through the ages, from Carmen Basilio against Sugar Ray Robinson through to Gary Mason against Lennox Lewis, who had suffered similar or even worse, injuries, carrying on iregardless, or protesting when the referee insisted it was time the punishment ceased.
Would those who were so quick to condemn have joyfully celebrated his courage had he continued and been left blind or or partially sighted, his career crushed, as the specialist treating him at Moorfields has suggested might have been the case?
Where were the naysayers when Anthony Joshua told the referee in New York that he did not want to carry when battered by Andy Ruiz jnr?
In in the main those valiant protagonists of the past they named were seasoned old pros whose careers were behind them, and had little to lose – except perhaps their eyesight
Joyce had peppered his opponent’s left eye with his own superb jab from the second round, gradually closing it while diffusing Dynamite Dan, who got little opportunity to detonate his explosive right. Joyce lived up to his tag as “The Juggernaut”, ploughing forward, impassively blinking away anything Dubois attempted to throw at him.
Dubois eventually succumbed, stepping backwards and taking the knee just 26 seconds into the tenth , then surprising everyone by staying down until the referee, Ian John Lewis, had tolled the full ten count.
We must remember that while Dubois was British champion he was also relatively a novice of 15 fights with little or no amateur experience behind him.
What happened in this contest was something alien to him; never before had he been hit and hurt and it was understandable that he might panic when unable to see enough to block the punches coming at him.
The mistake he made, I believe was not in going down on one knee, but staying down. What he should’ve done was get up around eight when the referee would’ve been obliged to ask him: “Are you okay?” He should’ve replied “I can’t see out of the eye” and the contest would have to have been stopped allowing him to leave the ring with some dignity rather than derision.
In any case we learned afterwards at that Dubois’ trainer Martin Bowers, who had between rounds told his increasingly disheartened fighter “this is the fight game” would have pulled him out at the end of the round.
That eye could not have withstood a further eight minutes or so of rapid artillery. It surely would have caused irreparable damage and finished Dubois’s career.
Promoter Frank Warren even suggested that Dubois might have been thinking intelligently along those lines. As it was, Dubois was treated at Moorfields and now awaits surgery for a broken eye socket and severe damage to vital orbital nerves..
The unwritten lore of the flight game is that you should be carried out on your shield, which often means a stretcher. That may well have been okay for the gladiatorial days of the Coliseum but surely not the Church Hall Westminster.
Those who were so critical of Dubois should recall another high-flying British boxer Anthony Ogogo. who retired in 2019 – three years and nine operations after he broke his eye socket and fought eight rounds with just 22% vision.
The way the bout concluded indicated that Dubois, so highly touted as the world’s outstanding young heavyweight. has a lot to learn, we also have much more to learn about him before judging whether he has the heart enough for battle or not.
With Olympic boxing, if not quite under threat then certainly the subject of serious scrutiny, it was heartening to hear the 35-year-old Joyce, the Rio super heavyweight silver medallist explaining just how valuable his experience in amateur boxing, was in his shock conquest of Dubois.
Joyce’s tactical nous, based on the years learning his craft, enabled him to nullify the renowned left jab and thunderbolt right of his fellow south Londoner an, use his own jab so effectively that it caused such grotesque damage around Dubois’s eye.
Now the huge controversy rages over whether the champion, in the parlance, lost his “bottle” and that he evoked that old boxing adage “once a quitter always a quitter.” Yet one could not easily dismiss the heavy handiwork of Joyce in creating the situation.
This is not to say he would have won the fight if the bewildered Dubois been able to see out of it. The all British judges were split in the scoring (one ludicrously had Dubois five rounds ahead at that stage) and I had them dead level in an absorbing “holy war” in the ornate setting of Church House in Westminster.
Joyce,who is also a Queensberry fighter,- can now look forward to a world title fight some time next year and there are plenty of possible opportunities, including more domestic dust-ups like this with current titleholders Tyson Fury or his own Olympic gold medal predecessor Anthony Joshua.
They both currently have previous commitments first so Joyce’s initial preference would be a bout with undefeated and undisputed cruiserweight czar Ukrainian Olexandr Usyk, now campaigning as a heavyweight. “Get me Usyk. Usyk” he chanted afterwards “Bring him on” urged the happy-go-lucky new triple champ whose greatest weapon is his own chin.
If Dubois’ wound is successfully repaired we should see him resume in the late spring. And if Joyce is unable to secure the matches he wants there is also the possibility of a return with Dubois which would sell out London’s O2, as originally
Intended, when fans are allowed to fully return.
Talking of which there will be up to 1000 spectators this Saturday when promoter Warren continues the celebration of his 40 years in boxing with another humdinger of a fight, again at Church House between light heavyweights Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur, to be televised by BT. This is permitted under the relaxing of the Covid regulations by the government and Warren has generously decided to distribute the tickets free among Chelsea Pensioners and key workers who have been instrumental in keeping things going during the pandemic.
At last there will be a bit of a roar from the crowd in another hard fought contest in which Yarde, who fought fiercely if ultimately unsuccessfully in Russia for the world title against Sergey Kovalev is, like Dubois, a firm favourite, but jas a tough job on his hands as like Joyce, Arthur is excellent come-forward fighter with a great jab. Could there be another upset?
And so to that other weekend “war” if you can call it that in Los Angeles when former champions Mike Tyson and Roy Jones jnr exchanged pat-a-cake punches.. I chose not to watch it as I believe the ring is no country for old men.
I saw both in their prime, particularly when Iron Mike was the baddest man on the planet, and not among the saddest.
Inevitably this exhibition turned out to be a draw, and 54-year-old Tyson threatens to continue his antique roadshow against Evander Holyfield or even Lennox Lewis. Like Dubois, I prefer to be counted out.