IT wasn’t supposed to be this way for Daniel Dubois. He wasn’t supposed to be coming back from a loss this early in his career, recovering from a broken eye socket, nor going from trainer to trainer after making the Peacock Gym his second home. But Joe Joyce came along at the end of last year. In a minor upset but a major gamechanger, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist defeated Dubois after an eagerly-awaited and punishing affair.
The fallout from that defeat was vast. Dubois, blind in one eye as the skin surrounding his left optic ballooned, took a knee in the 10th round and then the full count. He was labelled a quitter by fighters and fans. The unbeaten, thunderous punching heir to the throne was gone in an instant.
Now he’s damaged goods aiming to prove everyone wrong. Out went Martin Bowers as his head coach, in came Mark Tibbs before Shane McGuigan was drafted in when that initial switch didn’t work out. On June 5, in a bout that comes with the spurious WBA Interim belt needlessly attached to it, Dubois returns to the ring against Bogdan Dinu inside the Telford International Centre.
“Titles are flying about like crazy, there’s always a belt on the line isn’t there?” Dubois told Boxing News when asked about the title on the line. “I wasn’t surprised but I’m glad to be fighting for something again. It’s extra motivation.”
The biggest motivation, though, is to prove everyone wrong.
“I don’t really read the news and the social media platforms anyway and after that fight I stayed away from it more so,” Dubois said about the criticism that came his way. “I just let it wash over my head. I’m ready to show all those guys that I’m for real now, that I really have made improvements and I’m going to come again and come stronger.
“It’s boxing. I’m used to being called worse things than a quitter. I know I’m not a quitter. In my mind I was just waiting to see what would be the next move. I wasn’t down for long, I picked myself up. I was anxious and hoping that I healed properly. I took the necessary time out to make some decisions.”
Those decisions, which he came to after sitting down with his immediate family, included moving away from Bowers to Tibbs then settling with the McGuigans, where he has been for the last two weeks.
“We only did one session with Mark Tibbs after he came back from America after his fight with Billy Joe Saunders [v Canelo] and he sent me a text saying he had other commitments and couldn’t train me no more,” Dubois explained. “I thought, ‘Alright, that’s fine then.’ Going back before this, even before I met Mark Tibbs, Shane McGuigan was training my sister Caroline, preparing her for her Olympic journey. I saw him doing some good work with her and she was looking really good in the gym. I thought, ‘I want to try this guy out.’ But we went to Jimmy and Mark Tibbs and it didn’t work out. So here we are, back again.
“Shane brings a lot of youth, energy and wisdom with his dad being one of the legendary icons in the sport, Barry McGuigan, and some of that has passed down to his son. I think that will help massively.”
Dubois doesn’t like looking back to the night he lost to Joyce though is optimistic that loss – his only defeat in a 16-fight professional career – will prove pivotal, in a good way. When pressed on the contest and asked when he could feel the fight slipping away, Dubois said: “I didn’t. But I knew it was a hard fight, it was gruelling, it was give and take where no one was dominant or in front. It was just one of those things. It’s frustrating now, I could have done some things better.”
Like gaining more experience and seasoning beforehand?
“Probably. I could have had some better fights and better tests to prepare me. But I went along with it. That’s the way it was but I don’t want to look back now. I’m ready to move on again.
“Already I feel a different fighter. I’m not in the same stale mode I was before. I was going nowhere and hitting my head against the wall, it felt like. But now I feel like I’m progressing again.”
The nonsensical title aside, Romania’s Dinu, 20-2 (16), would appear the perfect opponent at this stage. He has a ‘name’ of sorts but his limitations were exposed in step-up outings against Jarrell Miller (2018) and Kubrat Pulev (2019) and, at 34, he’s the older man by 11 years.
“I have seen a little bit [of Dinu],” Dubois says. “He’s a standard boxer, he’s not that good nor that terrible. I’ve heard people say he hasn’t got the strongest of hearts. I think I can break his will and push through.”
Dubois’ own will has been tested in the last 12 months. He admits the loss to Joyce triggered a difficult time but he did not consider walking away from the sport. In the end, now his injury has completely healed, it’s a fight that will improve his career and not define it.
“It’s been a learning experience about myself,” he admits. “I know I’m strong enough to come back. It’s sometimes you have to make some hard decisions that might not feel comfortable with at first but in the long run they turn out alright.
“The end goal is still to be up there with the big names and fighting in the big events. All of this will improve me. It’s different for everyone but for me, this is how the script was written. It’s the way it was meant to be.”