Sports

‘I’m going to shock the world’: Daniel Dubois ready for Oleksandr Usyk

Despite recent setbacks and visits to the canvas, Daniel Dubois is confident of his chances of pulling off an upset to win the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles from Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday (5 p.m. ET on ESPN+).

Dubois (19-1, 18 KOs), from Greenwich in south London, has got this far despite looking vulnerable in recent fights and suffering a serious knee injury in his last fight.

Usyk (20-0-0, 13 KOs), 36, from Ukraine, is widely expected to retain his belts at the Stadion Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, but what is it that is fuellng Dubois’ confidence? And how has the English challenger got this opportunity?

“I’m going to shock the world and show people how good Daniel Dubois really is,” Dubois said.

ESPN gives you the inside track on Usyk’s second heavyweight title challenger.

Punching power

Despite being knocked out in 10 rounds by Joe Joyce in November 2020 and being floored three times by Kevin Lerena in his last fight in December, ‘Dynamite’ Dubois fights for a world title this weekend in part because of his concussive punching power.

The 25-year-old quickly recovered from his first professional defeat against Joyce, registering four stoppage wins including a third round win over Lerena in a first defense of the WBA ‘regular’ title, a less prestigious version of the governing body’s world title which is held by Usyk, in December.

Dubois is also getting his opportunity after fellow English heavyweight Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, and Usyk failed to agree to a title unification fight for the end of the year. Usyk needed another opponent, and Dubois was mandatory challenger for his WBA belt.

Dubois, who has prepared for Usyk at a high-altitude training camp in Spain, quickly looked like he was going to blow his hopes of a world title shot this year when he was dropped three times in the first round by Lerena. But despite injuring his knee during that torrid first round, Dubois’ head cleared through round two and he launched a ferocious attack late in the third round to force the stoppage. In June last year, Dubois also stopped American Trevor Bryan in four rounds.

“The best punches are all about timing and the best matchmaking is all about timing and this is Daniel’s time,” Dubois’ promoter Frank Warren said. “He showed a champion’s heart in his last fight and I genuinely believe this is his moment.”

Vulnerability and injuries

But against Lerena and Joyce, Dubois undeniably showed a fragility. Accurate punching has given Dubois problems and Joyce stopped him with a jab after Dubois suffered a broken eye socket earlier in the fight.

Also, how will his knee hold up nine months after tearing his ACL against Lerena, suffered when he was dropped three times to the canvas?

“100 percent I’m ready. We’re ready to rumble, bring them titles back home,” Dubois said earlier this month when asked if his knee had healed. “Usyk has been a great champion, I just need to unleash hell on him.”

He’s in a race with his sister

Lightweight Caroline Dubois (7-0, 5 KOs), 22, is making steady progress towards earning her first world title shot after reaching the quarterfinals of the last Olympics as an amateur.

Mikaela Mayer is the target for Caroline next year and Daniel’s best chance of beating his sister to being world champion is to pull off an upset in Poland this weekend.

He needs to break a trend

Usyk enjoys fighting British boxers. He beat Anthony Joshua for a second time on points a year ago, and in 2020 earned a points decision win over Derek Chisora in his second fight at heavyweight after he ruled as undisputed world cruiserweight champion. One of defenses as world cruiserweight champion was an eight round stoppage win over Tony Bellew in November 2018.

Usyk will be looking to make Dubois victory No. 5 over British boxers in world title fights in front of a thousands of Ukrainians in Poland.

This will be Dubois’ first fight with trainer Don Charles, who was in the corner with Chisora when he took Usyk’s fellow Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko to points for the WBC belt in 2012.

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