Daniel Dubois defeats Bogdan Dinu
Has there ever been in boxing history a night quite like Saturday for a fighting brother and sister?
In Paris, at the European Olympic qualifier, Caroline Dubois won for the second time to secure a place at the Tokyo Games and four hours later, in Telford, Daniel Dubois ended his medical exile by winning the WBA’s interim heavyweight title.
Caroline is 20 and Daniel is 23, both kids in the game.
The win in Paris for Caroline was delayed from March last year when the qualifier started and finished prematurely in London, an early Covid victim; she is a better fighter now with the extra year of strength and experience. In Paris, Caroline had already beaten the European number one, Mira Potkonen, the Finnish Olympic medallist who beat Katie Taylor in Rio. That win might just be the most impressive so far this year by a British boxer.
At the Olympic event, seven other British boxers have so far qualified for Tokyo, two have lost and four still have fights to come. It has been a stunning effort from the squad and the dozen men and women behind the scenes that kept the boxers motivated for fifteen long months of exile.
Daniel Dubois was once part of that GB squad of Olympic dreamers, but left as a 19-year-old boy in 2017 to concentrate on glory as a professional; it went well, nice and smooth, he picked up seven belts before losing to Joe Joyce last November in his 16th fight. It was a crushing, damaging defeat and Saturday night’s return certainly had an emotional edge.
In the opposite corner was a big lump from Romania called Bogdan Dinu and the pair were scrapping for the WBA interim heavyweight title, one of a dozen belts available on the fringes of a sport where keeping track of “champions” is now increasingly difficult. The WBA has a super, regular, interim and recess champion and the WBC has diamond, gold, silver, regular, super and recess. It might be a comedy, but the lunacy does still deliver decent fights; Dinu for Dubois, after the loss, was a fine match.
Dubois was sensibly hesitant in the opener, picking shots, moving off and watching for Dinu’s punches; in the sixty-second break between rounds, Dubois was told to get a bit closer by Shane McGuigan, his new coach. He did, he connected with a clean right and Dinu was down and counted out after 31-seconds of the second round. Dubois howled with relief at the end and a smile appeared that was still there two hours after the final punch. He had taken the most important step for all young heavyweights after a shocking loss – he got back in the ring and got the win. It was the test, not Dinu.
“It has been a hard time for me,” admitted Dubois. “It feels great to be back.” It was a fine start to the serious part of his career.
Dubois now gets a crack at a man called Trevor Bryan, an unbeaten American promoted by Don King, who holds the WBA’s regular heavyweight title; Anthony Joshua has the WBA’s super belt. Bryan won the regular title in January when he beat Bermane Stiverne at a bingo parlour in Hollywood, Florida. On that night, King, who is nearly 90, turned the clock back to the Eighties when the heavyweight division was his personal fiefdom. The fight was part of boxing’s parallel universe, a place gone rogue, but also a place where occasional gems take place.
Frank Warren, his promoter, who had looked so shocked when Dubois was stopped by Joyce, was typically bullish in victory, his young protege back on some type of track and Warren clearly having a new mission on his hands. Warren has saved, resurrected and created new careers for a lot of boxers over the years, bringing Joe Bugner back from the outback in the Eighties and performing a miracle with Amir Khan in 2009. To be fair, in the modern game, getting Dubois in contention as a marketable, young and dangerous punching heavyweight should be easy. In the last decade, far too many old pugs have been recycled for chances they no longer deserve.
“This win means he gets a fight with Trevor Bryan,” insisted Warren. “That’s what this win means.” Dubois against Bryan is an excellent fight, the belts confuse its status, but the trinkets should not diminish its worth as a prizefight.
And, somewhere waiting for news of a fight is Joyce, the forgotten and neglected man of British heavyweight boxing once again. Dubois would like a rematch at some point, Joyce is waiting for confirmation of an opponent for a fight in July. The list is fairly exotic, it has to be said. The French pair of Carlos Takam and Tony Yoka have been mentioned and a veteran called Marco Huck has been suggested. Yoka beat Joyce in the Olympic final in Rio – that fight would be amazing, but unlikely just yet.
It was a decent night for British heavyweight boxing on Saturday in Telford, in a business where the circus swirling high above the heads of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury has induced negotiation fatigue. Dubois is part of the future again, chasing Joyce, Fury fights in July, Joshua probably in August, Hughie Fury is still being ignored and Dillian Whyte is waiting for some justice.
Saturday night will have a fond place in British sport, the night when a brother and sister both achieved something special in the boxing ring: Caroline reached the Olympics and big brother, Daniel, beat the demons. A nice night.