The big Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce heavyweight showdown ends inside schedule in favour of the older man as a damaged eye proves significant
After a year of lockdowns and fights falling through, it was somewhat refreshing that Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce would likely have been the British Fight of the Year even during a standard 12 months. Delayed twice before the pair finally came together in a monumental clash at London’s Church House tonight, this was a heavyweight showdown for myriad belts including Dubois’ British, Commonwealth and the vacant European, that evoked memories of seminal UK fights like Lennox Lewis against Gary Mason or, more recently, Carl Froch facing George Groves.
There was no grudge to compare with the latter here on a Frank Warren show, but this was a high-level 50-50 fight - despite the bookies favouring Dubois - between unbeaten giants on the verge of world level. Joyce, at 35, had more to lose but the 2016 Olympic silver medallist had fought the significantly better opposition both amateur and pro. Dubois, the 23-year-old rising star, appeared the bigger puncher and faster fighter, but had not overcome any serious adversity before this night. It was delicately poised, with just about any outcome feasible. The general consensus was it would be either Dubois early or Joyce late, and the latter proved prescient, albeit probably not in the manner many envisaged.
In a grandiose setting made slightly surreal by the absence of fans, both appeared apprehensive before the opening bell.
Joyce pressed forward from the start, slowly but cutting the ring down intelligently behind his jab and footwork, making Dubois think. As amateurs, Joe competed at a much higher level and it showed as he moved in and out, scoring ’points’. Dubois looked tentative.
Dubois sharpened up in round two, landing a good right and left hook. Joyce remained the busier but Dubois got onto the front foot and began to land his excellent jab.
Dubois was very aggressive to open round three, landing big shots from both hands that Joyce took well. Joe’s jab was less forceful but thrown and landed more often. "Dynamite" Daniel was wild and predictable at times.
Into the fourth and the "Juggernaut" was still rolling. He doubled the jab and, again with his feet, made the muscular Dubois move and expend energy. It was smart tactics from the more experienced man and Dubois looked a little perplexed at the session’s end. I had Joyce 3-1 up.
To wrest control from Joyce, Daniel needed his jab to work and he sped it up in the fifth, also landed a neat lead left hook. At mid-range he could boss the exchanges with faster hands so Joyce attempted to jab and move laterally.
Dubois, left eye swollen, showed scant urgency in the sixth. He had his moments but Joyce continued to dictate the pace and distance. I had Joe 4-2 ahead at halfway.
Early in round seven, Dubois landed a jarring right as Joyce ambled forward. Smelling blood, he followed up but Joyce showed composure and a solid chin. Joyce got back on the jab and a one-two in the final minute caught the eye - Daniel’s eye and probably those of the judges.
Joyce took the eighth and ninth clearly for me. They were quiet sessions but Joyce was busier and usually on the advance. One flush right hand aside, Dubois boxed like someone with all the time in the world.
Early in the 10th Joyce ’dropped’ Dubois with a fairly innocuous looking jab on the damaged left eye. It appeared Dubois, eye by now swollen shut, blinked painfully before taking a knee and would rise. Instead he stayed prone to be counted out by the referee.
Joyce deserves huge credit for imposing the intelligent gameplan on Dubois and now should take his No. 2 position with the WBO.