Boxing history is littered with instances of unheralded fighters seizing their moment and changing the trajectory of their lives forever.
Daniel Dubois’ moment arrived in the fifth round of his challenge for Oleksandr Usyk’s unified heavyweight championship in August.
After a slow start, Dubois had begun to look more comfortable and confident when, suddenly, Usyk tumbled to the floor after taking a shot to the midsection.
Referee, Luis Pabon, deemed that the punch had strayed low, halted the action and gave the Ukrainian an extended break to recover. Illegal shot or not, Usyk had been badly hurt but, rather than jumping on him, Dubois stood off. Usyk used his experience, regathered himself and reasserted control.
Eventually in the ninth round, a heavy jab dropped Dubois to a knee where he stayed until Pabon reached the count of nine and a half. Although Dubois got to his feet, he was stopped in the act of rising.
Dubois’ promoter, Frank Warren, feels that Dubois let a massive opportunity slip through his fingers. Usyk was given four minutes to recover from the low blow but instead of using that time to steel himself for an all or nothing attack on the still hurt champion, Dubois began to feel sorry for himself.
“He was down after that. I’m talking about during the fight. He should have gritted his teeth, put it on him and I think he could have come through,” Warren said during the grand arrivals for this weekend’s ‘Day of Reckoning’ show in Saudi Arabia. “He’s never done it. He’s got every physical attribute. He’s a young man, he’s got a big punch, he can jab and he can move. He’s got speed. People are doubting his commitment and that is what this fight is all about.”
In heavyweight terms, 26-year-old Dubois is indeed a young man. Fighters like Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk are all entering the final laps of their careers. When they leave the sport, the door to the top of the heavyweight division will be sprung wide open and Dubois is one of a group of young heavyweights who are all vying for the opportunity to rule the next era.
Dubois (19-2, 18 KO’s) has already had one shot at the gold and needs to prove that he has the hunger to make another push. This weekend he has the perfect platform to begin his rebuild when he takes on the high profile and still unbeaten Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller.
“It’s up to him now to prove to the public and to himself and everyone around him that he wants to be in this business.” Warren said. “That he wants a seat at the big table. He’s got a great opportunity now against Jarrell Miller, who’s no slouch himself. I know his past with him being a drugs cheat and so forth but he’s cleaned himself up and is licensed by the Nevada commission.
“This is now Daniel’s moment in time to go and show the world what he’s all about. This is it. He’s on a big stage. Go and do the business.”