Oleksandr Usyk controversially survives scare to stop Daniel Dubois and stay on course for Fury

Oleksandr Usyk survived the biggest scare of his career to retain his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles against Daniel Dubois at Stadion Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland.

Down in the fifth round from what appeared a legal body punch, he was given the luxury of time to recover after the referee Luis Pabon controversially ruled that Dubois had landed low.

Usyk proceeded to force Dubois to take a knee in the eighth and to stop him in the ninth to retain his titles. Dubois will regardless feel that he was denied a remarkable victory – as, post-fight, his promoter Frank Warren and trainer Don Charles predictably raged.

It was perhaps significant that in the fourth round Usyk had complained to Pabon that another of Dubois’ legal body shots had been low. He had by then established a convincing rhythm, and to the extent that Dubois was already looking destined for defeat.

The near-chasm in experience and technical ability had been apparent from almost the opening bell – as early as the first round the tentative Dubois was being made to look slow. 

Usyk both landed with his jab and hurt him with a right; Dubois also looked open to his accurate left hand. After further success with both punches throughout the second – Dubois also fell short with a left-right combination – Usyk countered an uppercut to his body with a more hurtful right.

That the Ukrainian, 36, was already establishing a rhythm – and therefore landing further jabs and hurtful left and right hands – demonstrated the extent of the difficulties Dubois was being confronted with. He instead responded admirably – partly owing to Usyk’s increased willingness to take risks – by landing to the body in the fourth and then dropping him with a further body punch in the fifth.

Usyk went down so heavily and in such agony that had Pabon started counting it is unlikely he would have returned to his feet by 10. Pabon instead indicated that he believed that Dubois – whose right hand found Usyk’s belt line – had landed low, gifting Usyk the luxury of time to recover, and therefore in the region of a minute before he attempted to stand and up to three before they fought on.

They concluded the fifth by trading, and for all that Dubois ought to be celebrating being crowned champion, Usyk responded by showing why he is so widely revered. Recovering some of his rhythm he landed a hurtful left-right combination and a further right hand while resisting another punch to his body. 

Three successive hurtful lefts forced Dubois to retreat in the seventh, and following an assault in the eighth round to take a knee. Both fighters were tiring when Dubois, 25, was then dropped by a right hand in the ninth round, when though he returned to his feet after nine Pabon again intervened.

There was little question that by then Dubois was a defeated fighter. The bigger question, regardless, surrounded exactly why he wasn’t crowned champion in the fifth.

Aadam Hamed, the 23-year-old son of “Prince” Naseem, had earlier defeated Vojtech Hrdy of the Czech Republic on the occasion of his professional debut, at super lightweight. Hrdy, 17, had offered minimal resistance; the first time he was backed into a corner Hamed started letting his hands go, and the towel imminently followed from the teenager’s corner.

There was also a unanimous decision victory for Denys Berinchyk over Anthony Yigit. The Ukrainian was awarded scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 116-112.