It would be understandable if Daniel Dubois felt a sense of trepidation ahead of tonight’s clash with Joe Joyce at Church House, Westminster. After all, there is a lot at stake: the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles, as well as his undefeated record.
Yet the 23-year-old was relaxed and supremely confident when Boxing Social caught up with him earlier this week. He is unperturbed by his rival’s impressive amateur credentials and relentless workrate. This is just the next step towards fulfilling his destiny of becoming a world champion. He simply will not be denied.
“Pressure? Nah,” he said with a slight chuckle. “There’s always pressure before every fight, so no more than before. I know this is a big fight and there’s a lot more on the line than before, but I’m ready and prepared for it. I’ve been training most of my life for this. There’s nothing I ain’t ready for. It’s just a normal fight [week] for me. I’m excited, I’m ready to show what I’ve got. However deep I need to dig, I’m prepared to do it.”
Dubois (15-0, 14 KOs) has had more time to prepare for the contest than he initially anticipated. The British duo were set to fight on April 11, but of course, the global pandemic put paid to those plans. Two subsequent provisional dates fell by the wayside. An interim bout with former top-level amateur Eric Pfeifer had been arranged for August 29, but issues with the German’s paperwork resulted in the fight falling through. While Pfeifer would have been an acceptable test, late replacement Ricardo Snijders was not. Dubois obliged referee Marcus McDonnell to halt the contest in the second round, having sent his opponent to the canvas on four occasions.
The uncertain nature of this year has been far from ideal ahead of such a significant fight, but Dubois was undaunted. He diligently focused on honing his craft in the Peacock Gym, under the watchful eye of Martin Bowers, rather than being concerned by matters that were out of his control.
“In boxing, these things happen all the time; postponements and stuff,” he said. “In my mind, I thought: ‘This fight is going to happen sometime this year,’ and here we are. I wasn’t fazed at all by it being called off.”
Joyce will be hoping to put Dubois’ mental fortitude to the test. ‘The Juggernaut’ is known for his indefatigable march forwards, throwing clubbing punches at every available opportunity. The 2016 Olympic silver medallist’s pressure has resulted in 10 of his 11 opponents wilting before the final bell. Only former world title challenger Bryant Jennings has gone the scheduled distance with the unbeaten heavyweight.
Dubois has only been beyond the fifth stanza on one occasion when Kevin Johnson survived for 10 rounds. ‘Kingpin’ displayed little ambition, looking simply to take the sting out of Dubois’ punches. As such, Dubois had things entirely his own way and the contest ultimately resembled a sparring session.
Many believe that if the fight goes into the second half of the contest that Joyce will be able to break his rival down. Dubois vehemently refutes this assertion.
“I’m more than capable of 12, even 20 rounds if they want to,” Dubois said firmly. “There’s going to be no worries there. If they are looking at that like I won’t be ready, then that’s their mistake. We’ve got the right sparring in. There’s not a lot of guys that fight as awkwardly as Joe does. He doesn’t put a lot into his punches, so it allows him to carry on a lot longer, but I’ll be ready for that workrate [that] he’ll bring.”
The belief that Joyce does not load up on his shots is more than an educated guess. Dubois has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to share the ring with Joyce. In 2014, while both men were part of the Team GB set-up at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, they sparred several rounds. Tales of Dubois’ sparring prowess have circulated for many years including that he may have dropped Anthony Joshua while still a teenager.
While Dubois would not disclose what took place in those sessions, he inferred that he had the upper hand. ‘Dynamite’ was just 17 at the time and believes that he has progressed leaps and bounds since then. Dubois possessed incredible foresight for one so young, suspecting that one day he and Joyce would meet as professionals.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “[I have] good memories there. I’m a different animal now. I’ve definitely progressed; I’m getting stronger, getting better. Joe, I think, has reached the end of the line. He’s in his mid-30s, and he’s ready to go now, I think.
“We didn’t spend too much time socialising together. In my mind, I always knew he could potentially be my opponent when I turned pro, that’s how I was thinking anyway.”
Don’t mistake Dubois’ comments as being dismissive of his rival. He is acutely aware of the threat Joyce poses, he is just confident that he will be able to negate everything in the ‘Juggernaut’s’ arsenal.
This may simply be the bullheadedness of youth, but Dubois has good reason to be confident; he has hardly put a foot wrong in his fledgling career. Despite his knockout power, he has worked hard to ensure he can box as well as bang. He is ready for whatever Joyce will throw at him.
“I am prepared for anything,” he said. “I don’t think too hard about it, I just get ready to get in there and do it. My boxing; what I’ve learnt and picked up and the experience that I have, that will tell in this fight, big time. Everything that I am capable of, I’m going to put it all on the line and come away with a devastating win.”
If Dubois secures victory in the manner he has promised, he is not content to rest on his laurels. Dubois wants to challenge for world titles as soon as possible. His dream may be close to becoming a reality. At present, Dubois is ranked No.2 by the WBO and, if Anthony Joshua vacates the title, it is likely that Dubois would be ordered to face Oleksandr Usyk for the vacant belt. The 2012 Olympic Gold medallist from Ukraine unified the cruiserweight division before moving up to the land of giants.
Usyk is vastly more experienced than the Londoner, but Dubois remains unfazed. He will take on all-comers to fulfil his destiny of becoming heavyweight champion of the world.
“Definitely,” he said without pause when asked if he would be open to facing Usyk. “I’m at that level now. Once you go past the European belt, you can’t go backwards. I want to progress, so the sooner, the better. This is what the sport is all about. This generation needs to come up and show the world what we got.
“I want to get bums on seats and people watching the fights, so once these fights happen, it’s going to be amazing. I’m excited, man.”
Dubois-Joyce airs tonight on BT Sport 1 in the UK with the broadcast beginning at 7.30pm.
Main image and all photos: Queensberry Promotions.