Bradley’s take: Usyk vs. Dubois will be decided by more than just skill and talent


The driving force behind a fighter’s career goes beyond their skill and talent — it comes from deep within their heart. Whether brave or timid, fighters still feel fear and put on their shoes the same way. But what sets the best of the best apart is how they face the adversities that life throws at them. They confront their fears head-on, never backing down, standing tall and fighting back. On the other hand, the timid yield to pressure, giving in to anxiety and becoming weak, avoiding intense conflict.

While we often judge fighters based on their achievements and physical abilities, like strength, speed, and power, their story goes much deeper than what meets the eye.

Surprisingly, even fighters who appear confident and robust may have hidden insecurities beneath their veneer of invincibility. When their seemingly impenetrable shield is shattered, their vulnerability and internal struggles come to light. The pressure and weight on a fighter’s shoulders when they step into the boxing ring are unparalleled. Unlike other sports, boxing offers just a one-minute break of relief in between rounds. There are no halftime rests, IV units, or readily available oxygen if they become dehydrated, tired, or exhausted during an intense battle. There are no quick solutions to mend a cut.

Boxing is a brutal sport that embodies the spirit of gladiators. It celebrates the bravery displayed through blood dripping from a fighter’s nose or face, knockdowns and knockouts. However, people often overlook the profound impact that the physical toll of boxing has on a fighter’s mindset. It goes beyond the surface, breaking through their ego and stripping away their conditioned confidence, especially after a defeat.

And with all of that said, this is what we have in Oleksandr Usyk’s three belt heavyweight title defense against mandatory challenger Daniel Dubois. Usyk is determined, focused and elite in the sport, both mentally and physically. Dubois is chasing the air of invincibility he once had. A feeling that vanished in 2020. Unfortunately, sometimes the chase seems well out of the realm of possibility.

Daniel Dubois’ new approach

Daniel Dubois, once undefeated and once highly regarded heavyweight, looked unstoppable. However, he suffered his first loss in a grueling fight against Joe Joyce in November 2020. Dubois endured a fractured left eye socket in Round 10 and couldn’t continue. Joyce’s relentless and effective offense, driven by his powerful jab, proved too much for him.

This experience highlighted the mental and physical challenges boxers face, even formidable ones. It’s a reminder that the sport demands more than just physical strength and skill — it takes a toll on a fighter’s psyche as well.

Despite experiencing a defeat, Dubois, a highly-ranked British heavyweight contender, has displayed an impressive ability to bounce back. He not only regained his position as a mandatory challenger, but also gained significant momentum, securing four consecutive knockout victories since that pivotal loss.

It’s evident that Dubois has undergone a challenging and transformative process, affecting both his physical and mental well-being. His once unyielding domination is now diminished. His eyes and body language told this daunting story as I watched Dubois’ last performance against Kevin Lerena. It served as a reminder of the lasting impact of his previous loss three years ago. His once flawless style, which had experts like myself excited about his potential, had deflated. In a disappointing turn of events, he was knocked down three times in the opening round, two of which appeared unprovoked, while wrestling with the need for active engagement. Despite his impressive comeback to secure victory, there are still subtle signs of a fighter with a partially fractured spirit. Metaphorically speaking, there are indications of a heart that carries the weight of a carnival pony, highlighting his immense strength but revealing his leak of passion. And heart is the most righteous thing needed to excel in the sport of boxing.

Oleksandr Usyk’s pressure of fighting for a whole country

On the other hand, the boxing skill and heroism displayed by the undefeated and defending unified heavyweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk, require no further elaboration. While Usyk, of Ukraine, may physically step into the ring as an individual, he carries the weight of 37 million Ukranians alongside him, each fiercely supporting him with every strike thrown. In this collective spirit, they unite, fueling his determination and resilience throughout every battle.

The profound engagement of this collective spirit was vividly evident in Usyk’s second battle against Anthony Joshua in August 2022. Between rounds, as he settled on his stool, a memorable scene unfolded. He recited prayers, drawing upon the depths of his soul to summon an unbeatable strength. In those moments, the meeting point of his resolve and the unwavering support of 37 million souls became noticeable, a majestic confirmation of the power of unity and Usyk’s inner fortitude.

How do Usyk and Dubois match up?

Breaking down the matchup between Usyk and Dubois with technical analysis and tactics seems almost unnecessary. In my view, boxing is a sport that is 90 percent mental, and many fights are won or lost long before the day of battle.

Uncertainty breeds doubt, while resilience breeds victory. Usyk, with his extensive experience and numerous significant moments in the ring, is undoubtedly the better fighter. As a former cruiserweight undisputed champion, he has proven himself on the world stage. Dubois, on the other hand, is known for his awe-inspiring punching power, boasting one of the highest knockout percentages in the heavyweight division. But what happens when an opponent strategically navigates around his power, drawing upon their boxing knowledge or better yet, their mental fortitude to weather his storm and deliver their blows?

In my estimation, much like his last outing, Dubois will begin to crumble under the immense heat and pressure applied by Usyk. The re-emergence of the seemingly indomitable, invincible snowman will slowly melt away, revealing the true extent of his vulnerabilities.

Who wins?

I anticipate a resounding knockout victory for Usyk. For those of you who will be watching this eagerly from the comfort of your homes, it will become apparent why the highly regarded WBC champion Tyson Fury, widely considered the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, chose to avoid facing the immoveable dangerous determined Usyk.

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