The clash between heavyweight hopes Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce at the O2 Arena on October 24 is one of the most eagerly anticipated fights of the year. However, promoter Frank Warren admits he will not sleep easily until both men have safely negotiated their upcoming warm-up contests.
Thirty-four-year-old Olympic silver medallist Joyce faces Germany’s Michael Wallisch this Saturday in the second Warren-promoted event at the BT Sports Studio in Stratford and the Hall of Fame promoter admitted to Boxing Social: “I’ve got to be honest, it’s a fight I could do without!
“I wish we could have gone straight to the big fight between Joe and Daniel, but it wasn’t to be. I couldn’t have them out of action for that long and they didn’t want to be out of action for that long.
“[If they hadn’t fought before October 24] in Joe’s case it would have been more than a year since he last fought and, in Daniel’s case, it would have been 10 months. So that’s it. They both really wanted to fight and this is where we are now.”
Warren admits that during the lead-up to Joyce’s clash with Wallisch and Dubois’ showdown with Erik Pfeifer on August 29 his mind can’t help but recall some big fights from the past that fell by the wayside after warm-up fight disasters.
“I hate these sort of fights,” he confesses. “I look back over the years and think about some big fights that were built up and then didn’t happen.
“When I was younger, I remember Danny McAlinden versus Joe Bugner was going to be a huge fight. Then McAlinden took a fight against someone [Morris Jackson] he was expected to knock out and got done.
“Much later, I remember when Paul Ryan was ranked number one by the WBO. He had a world title fight coming up but insisted on a warm-up fight then he got done in the first round [by Jon Thaxton in 1996].
“The problem is, in a warm-up fight, a boxer’s mind is often on other things. They’re not always focused on the task in front of them.”
Despite his nerves, Warren emphasises that it is Dubois and Joyce’s willingness to take risks – both in the ring and in their career navigation – that makes them so compelling to watch.
“The fact this fight has been made speaks volumes for the type of fighters they are. Most people are looking for knock-over jobs early in their careers, but not Daniel and not Joe. To take on this challenge so early in their careers says a lot. And don’t forget they’ve both already been in with some decent opponents, too.”
Wallisch’s three career defeats all came against accomplished foes in Tony Yoka, Efe Ajagba and Christian Hammer, and Warren insists the 34-year-old Bavarian could make life difficult for the ‘Juggernaut’ this Saturday.
“Wallisch is going to give Joe a fight. If Joe knocks him over quickly that will be a good performance. He [Wallisch] is no slouch. He’s been in with some decent fighters,” he said.
Warren also points out that the 22-year-old Dubois’ opponent, Russian-born and Hamburg-based Erik Pfeifer possesses an impressive pedigree. “He’s got plenty of experience. He’s been to two Olympics and he beat [2016 Olympic gold medallist] Tony Yoka twice in the WSB [World Series of Boxing].
“I’ve watched a couple of his fights and he’s very capable. He’s got a good guard and fast hands.”
Warren goes on to argue that it is something of a golden age for British heavyweight boxing right now, which is part of the reason he is so desperate for Joyce and Dubois to seal those warm-up victories and set up an O2 showdown that many believe could be one of the fights of the year.
“When I came into boxing everyone used to talk about the old Dorothy Parker quote – ‘if we laid out all the British heavyweights end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised’. But now we’re churning heavyweights out like a factory line. It’s exciting times.
“David Adeleye [who fought on Warren’s July 10 show] is another good addition at heavyweight. He needs to slow himself down a bit. He’s very eager. But he’s going to grow and get heavier. There’s also a bit of needle between him and Daniel going back to their amateur days so down the road that could be a big fight.”
By the time October 24 rolls around, Warren hopes the current Coronavirus restrictions may have been lifted sufficiently to allow spectators into the O2.
“I’m hearing crowds may be back in some form at the beginning of the football season and I think whatever happens with football will happen with everything else. So fingers crossed.
“I think everyone has come to the conclusion we have to get back to some normality or the country is going to go bust. If we can get the live crowds in then that will be fantastic.”
Warren concludes with one final thought, one tempered with a note of caution, “Dubois vs Joyce deserves to be in front of a live audience. Although, of course, they’ve got to get through their warm-up fights first!”