Here’s What’s Undisputed: Dubois-Joshua Is A Damn Fine Clash Of Heavyweight Contenders

The pay-per-view fight card last December 23 in Saudi Arabia came billed as “Day of Reckoning”. And for some of the fighters in action, that’s exactly what it was.

But for Anthony Joshua and Daniel Dubois, it turned out be a Day of Reclamation.

The two British heavyweights were each perceived, at certain times, to represent the future of the division and perhaps the whole sport, each suffered shocking stoppage losses, each rebuilt somewhat only to both fall short against Oleksandr Usyk, and each were to varying degrees written off heading into the Day of Reckoning. But that card they shared six months ago marked a night when they both began to rejuvenate their careers.

Sure, they both won fights they were supposed to win. “AJ” was a solid favorite to get past Otto Wallin. And Dubois was expected to defeat Jarrell Miller.

But the “how” matters. It always matters in boxing. 

Dubois overcame some heavy blows from Miller in the early rounds, proved willing to trade, gradually took over, and didn’t settle for a decision win — instead forcing the stoppage over the previously unbeaten “Big Baby” with eight seconds left on the clock. It was — tellingly, in terms of his ring accomplishments to that point — the most meaningful win of his career.

Joshua, taking on an opponent whose only defeat was a competitive 12-round distance loss to the then-lineal champion Tyson Fury, showed confidence, fought aggressively, and beat Wallin bloody – punishing him in one-sided fashion until his corner surrendered after round five. It was AJ’s most meaningful win in at least three years, since Kubrat Pulev, and maybe in four years – since the rematch with Andy Ruiz – and quite possibly the most impressive start-to-finish domination of a world-class fighter of his entire career.

On the Day of Reckoning, Joshua and Dubois both announced that they were very much still fighters to be reckoned with. And then they both came out and improved on those performances in their next outings.

Dismiss Joshua’s win over Francis Ngannou on March 8 as just a higher-profile Butterbean-Bart Gunn if you like. It was a show of force by way of farce, no doubt. But it was a statement win for Joshua just the same. This was a fighter blessed with every physical gift a heavyweight champion could ever ask for reminding the world just what he’s capable of. And he delivered not just for himself. He delivered for boxing.

For defenders of the sport, his right hand erased the embarrassment of the win Fury waddled to over Ngannou.

On June 1, Dubois authored with a statement of his own. Not for the whole of boxing. Just for himself.

Dubois was an underdog against the undefeated Croatian Filip Hrgovic on another overstuffed undercard in Riyadh. And the oddsmakers looked to have it right for the first two rounds, as “Dynamite” repeatedly allowed right hands to detonate on him. But as he had against Miller, he persevered through the tough spots, after having received criticism for caving in losses to Usyk and Joe Joyce. And bit by bit, he turned the fight around. By the fifth, Dubois was in charge. In the seventh, he rocked Hrgovic with right hands. In the eighth, the contest was stopped.

Some five months after the best and most meaningful victory of his career, Dubois had a new best and most meaningful victory of his career.

These parallel paths of these two British heavyweights are set to converge on September 21 at Wembley Stadium, it was formally announced on Wednesday. And the timing could not possibly be more perfect. While a cross-continental dream showdown with Deontay Wilder eluded Joshua until finally it became inconsequential, and a British all-the-marbles mega-fight with Fury continues to not quite happen, AJ now has Dubois lined up as both are peaking.

If you’d told me prior to the Day of Reckoning that this fight would be happening nine months later and that I’d care about it as much as I do, I wouldn’t have believed you.

On December 22, 2023, Joshua and Dubois both appeared more to be throwbacks to the era of the British “horizontal heavyweights” than flag-bearers for the future of the glamour division. But here they are, the two hottest heavyweights alive not named Oleksandr Usyk, and the concept of them swapping leather is absolutely mouth-watering.

This, despite the utter stupidity of it being billed as some sort of heavyweight championship fight.

Joshua did his best to undo one boxing embarrassment when he eviscerated Ngannou, but boxing, like a salamander that regrows limbs if you chop one off, manages to sprout new embarrassments any time a glimmer of sanity temporarily emerges.

Usyk unified all the belts, became the undisputed champion, brought sensibility and order to the division, and cleared up any possible confusion over who The Man is. And he was forced to vacate one of his belts so it could be handed to Dubois. Because… boxing. Because heaven forbid the fans be treated like adults.

It would be bad enough if Joshua and Dubois were fighting for a vacant title, to create a BS “dispute” to Usyk’s undisputed status beginning the night of September 21. But this is even dumber than that. Joshua-Dubois, a fight between two red-hot heavyweight contenders, sees Dubois defending a title against AJ.

If anything, narratively, the upstart Dubois is playing the role of challenger against the established veteran. But don’t believe the evidence witnessed with your eyes and ears; rather, accept what a sanctioning body is telling you – that Dubois is defending the championship of the world against Joshua.

Usyk continues to walk the earth, and yet we are asked to believe that one of two fighters who are a combined 0-3 against him should rightfully be called “champion”.

And it saddens me because Dubois-Joshua is such a tremendous fight on its own merits. It’s two contenders trying to nail down a claim as the man most deserving of a shot at the winner of Usyk-Fury II. You don’t need higher stakes than that.

Dubois’ promoter, Frank Warren, came frustratingly close to delivering a perfect quote hyping the fight this week at the press conference.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Warren said. “Two Brits in there fighting for the IBF title, two of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division, and as we well know, when you have two quality British fighters fighting each other for such a prestigious title you always get a classic fight. Big punchers. It won’t go the distance. Somebody’s gonna go.”

Just take out all references to the trinket that rightfully belongs to Usyk, and Warren’s quote is worth of reprinting on every website; on every social media post; on every fight poster.

“It doesn’t get any better than this. Two Brits, two of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division, and as we well know, when you have two quality British fighters fighting each other for such high stakes you always get a classic fight. Big punchers. It won’t go the distance. Somebody’s gonna go.”

Of course, the promise of a knockout is classic promoter-speak, but it’s reasonable to believe Joshua and Dubois will deliver on that. They are both massive punchers, Dubois boasting 20 KOs among his 21 wins; Joshua having ended matters early in 25 of his 28 victories. And there is a perceived fragility to both. Joshua has been stopped once and knocked down four times. Dubois’ two losses have both been stoppages and he’s been floored six times.

They have both experienced boxing’s lowest lows. And that’s part of what makes Dubois-Joshua, coming with them both in the best form of their careers, so fascinating. It’s exactly the right fight at the right time — and in the right place, at Wembley, before an assuredly raucous and far-from-sober throng of their countrymen, rather than a stale and sterile arena in Saudi Arabia.

They’re both still young by modern heavyweight standards. Dubois is young by just about any standards, at 26. But at 34, Joshua is younger than Usyk, younger than Fury, younger than Wilder, and younger than Zhilei Zhang. Based on his past two fights, he may well be – seven-plus years after his launch-pad win over Wladimir Klitschko – just hitting his prime. If the physical ability is not eroded and the skill has progressed and the confidence is restored and the wisdom and calm enabled by experience have taken hold, then maybe we haven’t yet seen the best of AJ.

If that’s so and he prevails at Wembley, I hope we’ll have the good sense not to write Dubois off when he suffers his third pro defeat. And if Dubois pulls off the win, and fully grabs the baton from Joshua as the latest British heavyweight mega-talent who bottomed out and went on to fulfill his promise, I hope we won’t declare it the end of AJ either.

I love everything about this fight … except one thing. So let’s just agree to ignore that one thing and appreciate this fight for what it is – two serious contenders trying to establish superiority over the other.

No, Frank Warren, it doesn’t get any better than this. You should have ended your sales pitch right there.

Eric Raskin is a veteran boxing journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering the sport for such outlets as BoxingScene, ESPN, Grantland, Playboy, Ringside Seat, and The Ring (where he served as managing editor for seven years). He also co-hosted The HBO Boxing Podcast, Showtime Boxing with Raskin & Mulvaney, and Ring Theory and currently co-hosts The Interim Champion Boxing Podcast with Raskin & Mulvaney. He has won three first-place writing awards from the BWAA, for his work with The Ring, Grantland, and HBO. Outside boxing, he is the senior editor of CasinoReports and the author of 2014’s The Moneymaker Effect. He can be reached on X or LinkedIn, or via email at

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