Briton Daniel Dubois said he felt “cheated out of victory” after his heavyweight world-title challenge ended in defeat by Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk on a dramatic night in front of 40,000 boisterous fans in Poland.
Dubois, a huge underdog, floored the champion in a controversial fifth round. With Usyk wincing in pain on the canvas, the referee ruled the shot – which appeared to land on the belt line – a low blow.
Usyk, 36, regained control and dropped Dubois, 25, with a flurry of shots in the eighth round at Tarczynski Arena, Wroclaw, before the referee halted the contest following another knockdown in the ninth.
“I didn’t think that was a low blow, I thought it landed,” Dubois said after the fight.
His promoter Frank Warren agreed, calling it a “complete home decision” as he criticised referee Luis Pabon and said he planned to appeal.
“I like Usyk, but he was not fit to go on and they gave him a couple of minutes to recover,” added Warren.
In fact, Usyk took three minutes and 45 seconds before declaring he was fit to resume – fighters are allowed five minutes when caught with a low blow, although Dubois was not deducted a point by the referee.
Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, responded well towards the end of the fifth round and reasserted his dominance in rounds seven and eight as he made a successful second defence of his WBA ‘Super’, IBF and WBO belts.
He also retained his undefeated record, winning a 21st professional bout, to keep hopes of a blockbuster fight with Tyson Fury alive.
“I’m ready to fight Tyson Fury,” Usyk said.
“I feel good. I am grateful for my team, my family, my children. I love you. I’m grateful for my country and the Ukrainian army. Thank you so much.”
Briton Fury – the WBC world champion – and Usyk have previously failed to agree terms on a historic bout for all four heavyweight belts.
A dramatic, controversial fight
The gulf in boxing fundamentals was clear to see as early as round one with Usyk winning the battle of the jabs.
But Dubois, whose only career loss came against Briton Joe Joyce in 2020, responded by landing an uppercut in the second.
However, Usyk, light on his feet and working at a high intensity, was clearly superior, dancing around the ring, picking Dubois apart in the early rounds.
Lightning lit up the night sky above the open-air stadium in the fifth, seconds later Dubois landed that thunderous right to the body. The crowd gasped, their hero rolling on the floor.
Replays showed the shot was borderline, on the belt. Usyk remained on the floor. He took his time to recover, and had no interest in touching gloves as the contest continued. The dramatic round ended with both men landing punches after the bell.
Usyk then sensed blood as Dubois tired, landing with a flurry of shots in the eighth to floor Dubois.
The challenger bravely got up as the count reached nine, but a straight right in the ninth brought an end to the contest.
Many gave Dubois a puncher’s chance heading into the fight, and that may have just been the punch in the fifth round.
“We will order an appeal after what’s happened here,” Warren said.
“It’s all about a legitimate punch that stopped him and he should have won. Everyone wants to see the unification [with Fury, who is in Warren’s stable of fighters]. If Daniel had got the result then it would have been easy to do. We will see now.”