23-year-old dropped to his knee in the 10th round after suffering eye damage during loss to fellow Londoner
Daniel Dubois was accused of being a “quitter” after surrendering his British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles in a shock defeat by fellow Londoner Joe Joyce.
The 35-year-old victor celebrated with his trademark capoeira dance manoeuvre at Westminster Church House behind closed doors but his 23-year-old opponent, who dropped to his knee in the 10th round because of eye damage and was counted out by referee Ian John-Lewis, now faces the daunting task of rebuilding his career in the face of perhaps the biggest insult a boxer can face – that he gave up too easily.
Dillian Whyte, the former World Boxing Council mandatory challenger, said on his Instagram account: “Man’s out here quitting in mid-fight. They were saying they want to fight me and they were gonna knock me out. One thing with me, no quit, straight warrior. If I’m losing, I’m getting knocked out. Straight warrior, straight warrior.”
Former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton, who was commentating on the fight for television, said: “I think he quit. I have to be brutally honest. His eye was closed, but I’d get dragged out of the ring, I wouldn’t take a knee.”
His view was echoed by another former heavyweight world champion, David Haye. “I was very unhappy with the way he took a knee,” he said. “I’d rather get knocked spark out.”
Joyce had closed Dubois’ left eye after peppering it with a ramrod jab. It was later disclosed Joyce had suffered a fractured orbital socket with suspected nerve damage after examination at Moorfields Eye Hospital. The irony, moreover, is that nine months ago at a news conference, Dubois had made an insensitive jibe about his opponent’s mother, who is partially-sighted.
This was a crossroads fight for both unbeaten heavyweights and Joyce has risen triumphantly, his victory won on greater experience, and a calculated game plan of pressure with the jab enacted to perfection. Joyce’s chin, moreover, remains a great weapon. Joyce advanced from the start of the fight, showed the best jab of his career and imposed himself in spite of losing the majority of the early rounds. Joyce pressed the space and the pace, attempting to keep the younger fighter on the back foot, absorbing his fellow Londoner’s heavy right hands.
As the rounds progressed, Joyce nullified Dubois and took the fight from him.
‘Juggernaut’ was exactly what he was in this fight, and the debate is now where the former Olympic super heavyweight silver medallist sits amongst the top 10 heavyweights in the world. There is an argument that Joyce could be judged around No 5 in the division, with, on my list Oleksandr Usyk, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury above him.
The counter argument now, however, is whether the hype around Dubois was justified now that he has been under pressure and beaten. The defeat and damage inflicted on Dubois could go many different ways. He has the youth to rebuild, but the eye socket damage could be a major issue.
There are many examples of boxers battling on with an eye closed. For example, in the British heavyweight clash between the late Gary Mason and Lennox Lewis almost 30 years ago, Mason fought until being stopped in the seventh round with an eye closed. Mason, 29 at the time, was unbeaten in 35 fights and a professional seven years into his career. Dubois had just 33 rounds under his belt in 15 fights coming into this contest with Joyce. Here, Joyce exposed a novice.
The ‘Juggernaut’ is now the British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion. Heading into the 10th round, Dubois was ahead on two of the three judges’ cards – 86-85 and 88-83, with the other 87-84 to Joyce – but it mattered not. I had Dubois one round up, but Joyce coming further and further into the fight.
Dubois was calm, though, in his post-fight analysis. “He caught me with a good jab, the jab was pretty accurate. I couldn’t see out of the eye. It just happens, man, I can’t explain it … I couldn’t see out of it. I was trying my best,” he explained.
The honesty of inexperience. To others, Dubois submitted and there will be question marks around his resilience. Dubois may be deeply affected by it, but he has years on his side to rebuild. But it is now the ‘Juggernaut’ who has crashed through a wall into a major heavyweight fight ahead.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “I’m ready to fight anyone in the division.”