Proud Don Charles happy to play the long game with Daniel Dubois’s future

Daniel Dubois scored the biggest win of his pro career when he became the first man to beat controversial heavyweight Jarell Miller, and trainer Don Charles beamed with pride in the corner.

Charles started working with Dubois a few weeks ahead of his unified title shot against Oleksandr Usyk in August, after the London heavyweight and former coach Shane McGuigan parted ways.

It was a baptism of fire, boxing a special champion like Usyk, in Poland, where Usyk had thousands of supporters.

But now Charles said his 26-year-old can be built into a major player in the division after stopping two-time drug cheat Miller.

Most definitely, most definitely, because as you know, he [Daniel Dubois] is still a new fighter, with a new trainer,” Charles explained. “He’s still getting used to what I want him to do, and that’s getting better. Obviously, we got thrust straight into that daunting fight against Oleksandr Usyk [which took place in Poland, August 2023] – your first assignment with a new coach, you find yourself fighting the number one, if not number two, heavyweight in the world right now, in the name of Oleksandr Usyk. That was our introduction to each other as a fighter and a coach, you know what I mean? So, in respect of the final outcome, I believe that we had to gel immediately to be able to do what he did in Poland. I’m very, very proud of him, because it’s easy for people to say, ‘He bottled it, he quit’ - that’s just people. People will always be people, and we don’t listen to those people, because we’ll never get anywhere in life.”

Against Miller, Dubois had to front up to a man who talked a lot of smack to him in the buildup, who outweighed him by almost 100lbs and who, in rounds four and five, started to get on top. It was Dubois’s mental dexterity as much as the physical strength he carried late in the fight to stop Miller with seconds left in the 10th and final session that pleased Charles. Added to that, Dubois showed he could adapt. He had tried to outmuscle the huge American and risked running his gas tank low early on, but he then began to keep Miller at bay, started boxing and moving and took control.

“Correct, yeah,” agreed Charles. “He never had been through an altercation where he was wrestling and tussling with him [Jarrell Miller]. We did a lot of legwork for this fight, where he would be on the move, not running, but on the move – back peddaling, taking half-steps back, change the angle, don’t let him get a hold of you at any point where you’re getting into a wrestling match – and that’s what happened to Daniel in the first, one, two and three rounds. He’d hit Miller, and then stay there for Miller to maybe grab him, and he’s trying to push Miller away from him. You can’t be pushing away 333lbs, and he probably weighed more on the day of the fight. You can’t be pushing him, and he [Dubois] was loading up his punches, which were not the instructions to initially, pepper him with fast hands, blinding speed whilst we put dents in him, then he reassessed with standing and trading. He [Dubois] went to a certain place but I was able to pull him back a bit – those were those two rounds that you saw [rounds four and five] – it was a totally new experience for him, punching somebody who was 25 stone [and not budging]. It was a new experience.”

It was Dubois’s ability to listen to instructions and respond positively that really encouraged Charles. That is the hallmark of someone who is coachable and someone who has potential to climb the rankings. 

“That was really satisfying to watch – to be able to be versatile, to be able to be adaptable during the contest – it’s all to do with experience,” Charles explained. “So only the best fighters in the world have the ability to do that. I’ll give you an example, I know it’s a different weight category, but it’s the same principle, when Joe Calzaghe was fighting Mikel Kessler, I think Calzaghe was probably [losing] the first four or five rounds, you could’ve easily given them to Kessler, but he had the ability to switch it, and ended up winning the fight quite comfortably. So the fighters that were able to do that, to adjust and adapt during fights, that’s what Daniel needs to develop. When it didn’t go our way in Poland against Usyk, all we needed to do was [think], ‘Ok, we didn’t get what we should have got where he should’ve got counted out, alright let’s regroup, let’s go and win the fight, we can still win the fight.’ So we came away from there, and that's what we had to take out of any adversities, we have to learn from them, spin them going forward to be able to do what he did in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia].”

The future looks good for Dubois. He is one of the youngest heavyweight contenders, he has picked up valuable experience in losses to Usyk and Joe Joyce, and he will have impressed the powers that be in Saudi Arabia who could want him back as early as March. Dubois is also on the peripheries of the Top 10 in the world, but Charles is in no rush. The coach would like to see Dubois in with Manuel Charr next, the man who holds the WBA regular heavyweight title Dubois never lost in the ring, despite Charr never having fought for it and not having boxed for more than a year. That all came at the end of a lengthy legal dispute. 

Charles is yet to sit down with the team, including promoter Frank Warren, to discuss next steps, but said: “I personally think, for Daniel – it [Charr]’s not a walk in the park – but to go there and get that belt, because Daniel didn’t lose that belt in the ring. That belt wasn’t on the line when he was fighting Uysk, so I don’t actually understand why the WBA opted to take it and Mahmoud Charr didn’t win it in the ring – he got awarded it. So that was quite a bizarre thing, so I think that it’s only right that we go and challenge him, win that belt back, and one step at a time, I suppose.”

One thing Charles does not want is to see his fighter rushed into a big money fight. He wants more time to work on his relationship and bond with the fighter and for Dubois to grow and learn in the ring. Charles has no interest in Dubois fighting the likes of established champions and division leaders like Tyson Fury just yet.

“In terms of jumping from Miller to [Tyson] Fury, again like I said, this young kid is only 26 [years-old], he’s only 26, we have to bear that in mind,” Charles explained. “Personally, no, I wouldn’t want to jump from beating Miller, to then fighting Fury. No, I think, what’s the rush? He’s in the mix, granted, but one step at a time, you know? And he’s developing, learning new things put onto what he already has – it’s layers – to put over the mistakes we made in Riyadh against Miller, we need to rectify them going forward. You never want to remainstatic; I want Daniel to remain unbeaten for the foreseeable future, and the only way we’re going to do that is not to race him – he’s 26-years-old. Heavyweights don’t peak until they’re like 28, 29, 30… This kid’s literally just turned 26.” 

Of course, there are plenty of marquee names in the heavyweight division. Deontay Wilder might want to go again, Zhilei Zhang twice beat the man who first defeated Dubois in Joe Joyce and Anthony Joshua is back on top and in the mix after blitzing Otto Wallin on the same December 23 bill in Saudi Arabia.

“Look, Daniel can fight any of those names that you just mentioned, but remember we have to let the dust settle – we haven’t even had a team meeting or spoken to our promoter Frank Warren – I call him the architect! Frank, as I speak to you here, I’m sure he’s planning something, that something he’s planning, I don’t know, because it hasn’t been discussed. So really and truly, I’m not limited to expand any more before, let’s say, consulting Frank to see, he’s our promoter, he’s the engineer, he’s the architect - so he’s going to throw names at me of course, then I will examine those names, and I will always speak [having] in mind that I am the trainer. I know what the fighter is capable of, and I also know what he’s not capable of. So there’s no need to race. All of the names that I’ve mentioned, they’re all in their 30s, mid-30s, and they’re not going to be around forever, so what’s the rush I say? For money? No, put the money to one side, bring us fights [that] we can keep winning, and the positions, and the opportunities will present themselves in my opinion.”