Daniel Dubois: The Pain Of Defeat
Saturday night’s big heavyweight showdown was always going to answer a lot of questions for both fighters. In many ways, there was an abyss of the unknown. Despite their unbeaten records, Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce entered the triple title clash with much to prove.
The two heavyweight hopefuls had beaten the usual well-trodden assortment of opponents. Fights where the chances of defeat are remote, the purpose of padding a record obvious. But what do the fighters really learn from fights where they hardly have to deal with punches coming back at them or overcome any adversity.
Dubois and Joyce entered the fight on Saturday knowing victory wasn’t guaranteed, for the first time in their professional careers they would have to adapt and survive some very uncomfortable moments.
The jab and defensive skills were always paramount to who would leave the ring with their unbeaten records still intact. The common consensus was that Dubois would win those particular battles. But to the surprise of many, it was Joyce who had the better of those two mini-wars in the battle for overall supremacy.
Joyce was harder to hit than we thought, and surprisingly, would also out jab Dubois. Joyce peppered Dubois all night long, it wasn’t thrown with great speed, but it was effective, and Dubois couldn’t avoid it. Joyce had the longer reach, and he made it count. Dubois suffered a broken eye socket and nerve damage, and that ultimately went a long way to deciding the outcome of the contest.
Dubois was ahead on two of the judge’s cards, and without the eye injury, he may well have won. I didn’t see any obvious signs that Dubois was in danger of being stopped, before the sudden ending, which does offer some degree of encouragement going forward. But the injury aside, what we witnessed raised doubts, and plenty of them.
We saw in the Kevin Johnson fight Dubois ran out of ideas as he went the distance for the first time in his career, and that is the test for any big puncher. What happens when the opponent in front of you doesn’t fall. The likes of Johnson pose little threat, but when you reach a certain level, that changes.
We didn’t know before Saturday night, how will Dubois cope when he has to take punches in return, does he have a Plan B.
Even though I picked Dubois to beat Joyce, it wasn’t done with much certainty. As I wrote in my preview, the easy early career wins buy reputations but they don’t buy experience. What happens when the price goes up, does the prospect have enough money in the bank.
Dubois is only 23, and it would be premature to write him off after one defeat. The quit narrative also needs caution, we shouldn’t judge too harshly his decision to take a knee and stay there now we know the extent of the damage to his eye. But Dubois knows he has much to prove on his return.
Frank Bruno suffered early defeats before finally winning the world heavyweight title at the 4th attempt and Dubois has time on his side.
It was as feared beforehand, a case of too much too soon for Dubois, pushed to a level he wasn’t prepared for. If he had beaten Joyce, Dubois would have had to go to another level beyond even that, one that he is nowhere near ready for, there is a chance he never will be.
Once the eye has healed, Dubois needs time to develop when he returns. There is no rush, there are a plethora of fringe heavyweights who can help that development, fights where victory is less certain.
Time and the drop in hype and expectation will serve Dubois well. Frank Warren is a past master of bringing fighters back from defeat, picking the right opponent at the right time.
When the inquest is over all parties involved will hopefully accept that they got it wrong. It was a gamble, that premature number two WBO ranking, practically forced it on them. But lessons need to be learned, another loss and even Warren might struggle to get Dubois to a place that before Saturday looked one of certainty.
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