By: Oliver McManus
Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce has all the makings of a classic in the heavyweight division. Two British fighters putting their unbeaten records on the line with four belts – European, Commonwealth, British and WBC Silver – awaiting the winner. This is a grudge match in the contemporary sense of the word. There is a rivalry, don’t be mistaken but the protagonists are far too well-mannered to let that cross the line into ‘bad blood.’
Dubois, now 23, has been the prized jewel in the Queensbury Promotions crown since inking a professional contract in 2017. Promoter Frank Warren has hailed him as the future of the heavyweight division – of British boxing – and an undoubted world champion in the making.
Joe Joyce, 12 years the older man, hasn’t had that stability and love-in from the British boxing fraternity. He’s gone from Hayemaker Promotions to Al Haymon and PBC to Queensbury. He’s been trained by Ismael Salas, Abel Sanchez, Adam Booth, Steve Broughton and back to Ismael Salas. For someone with such strong amateur pedigree – Olympic Silver, World and European Bronze and Commonwealth Gold medals – he’s far from the unassuming darling of the public you could argue he deserves to be.
That goes out of the window on Saturday night with the winner taking supremacy and, in doing so, one giant step towards a world title tilt in 2021.
Part of the puzzle as to who will win lies with just how similar the pair are: both are front-footed, aggressive fighters with defensive frailties that are yet to be exploited. Kevin Johnson showed Dubois to be one-dimensional in their contest but that was quickly rectified and normal, explosive, order restore in his very next contest. Agains Richard Lartey, the fringe contender managed to lure Dubois into a firefight and that could be Joyce’s best tactic. Joyce, meanwhile, looked ropey against Bryant Jennings – despite two wide scorecards – with the American landing on a number of occasions against a sluggish Joyce.
If Daniel Dubois is to win the fight, the key will lie in his jab and, more importantly, the variants of it. Many comparisons have been made about that most fundamental punch but Dubois sells it to his opponent every time. Against the aforementioned Lartey, it was his firm right hand that was used to stop any incoming punches. Whilst against Razvan Cojanu, we saw a sort of holding shot to set up attacks to the body and against Nathan Gorman, it was that soft lead jab just tempting Gorman into leaving a gap for Dubois to exploit. All three got suckered in and they were all stopped in devastating fashion.
For Joyce to find success, he needs to look at the volume of his punches and start upping his attack when he’s on the front foot. There was an odd moment against Joe Hanks where the American was hurt and on the ropes like a sitting duck: Joyce took a step back into the centre of the ring and waited patiently instead of setting about finding the finish. The Putney man is a huge puncher, yet sluggish, but once he lands, he needs to follow that up to keep the pressure on.
This is a fantastic fight: one with so many similarities in terms of style in and out of the ring that really is impossible to confidently predict which way this is going to go. You’d put money on the winner going on to be world champion, though.