“It’s the fight game” and sometimes you just don’t know until it’s too late as it proved in Joe Joyce’s supreme display to upset Daniel Dubois with a 10th round knockout and capture the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.
In a fight with tremendous risk for both fighters, who both entered the contest unbeaten, a dramatic conclusion illustrated the danger of this sport, but not quite in the manner expected from two dangerous men fixated on climbing to the pinnacle of the sport.
The Juggernaut was a heavy underdog entering this bout at the majestic Church House in Westminster. But the 35-year-old’s vast experience, despite a belated introduction to the sport at university at around the same age of his 23-year-old foe, proved critical: a smart, measured strategy saw Joyce immediately pepper the hulking Dubois with his jab, and the blurring activity immediately stacked up an advantage.
Dubois’ corner gave him a dressing down between rounds like a naughty schoolboy, with veteran trainer Martin Bowers screaming at his pupil, “you’re in the fight game”, though the prospect barely needed reminding.
Dubois, to his credit, reacted with venom, spearing his own jab to split Joyce’s guard before sprinkling in a healthy dose of clubbing rights to force Joyce into a desperate hold on several occasions during the first four rounds.
The shock of Dubois’ clean work subsided quickly though, with Joyce invigorated and, he admitted later, spurned on by the relief that he could absorb the punishment, which saw him return to his simple but busy work.
Even if Dubois was holding his own in a close fight, the damage across his face suggested he was losing momentum, with a swollen left eye forcing crucial hesitation in each exchange.
Joyce begun to circle to his right as the fight entered the second half; another shrewd manoeuvre, with the Olympic silver medallist moving away from Dubois’ dangerous right to nullify its power.
Joyce can boast an incredible engine, with Carl Frampton heralding him as the fittest fighter in boxing, leaving him well positioned to weather a late storm from his more youthful opponent. But another jab, perfectly delivered on the corner of Dubois’ eye at the start of the 10th sent shockwaves through his massive frame.
It had dawned on Dubois that he simply could not persevere any longer, buckling and dropping with a thud to his knee before being counted out to spark wild celebrations from Joyce and his team.
Cruel accusations of quitting immediately spread, though Dubois’ decision may have saved his career, with David Haye likening his own abrupt experience at the hands of Carl Thompson in the early stages of his career, before eventually conquering the world in two divisions.
Joyce meanwhile, following his signature display of capoeira in celebration, dances on, brimming in delight at successfully pulling off a calculated gamble to catapult himself into world title contention.
Should Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury prove out of reach for the time being, the pursuit of Oleksandr Usyk, a formidable foe from his illustrious amateur career, will begin.
This is the fight game and Joyce can revel in navigating the perils of the sport in a hurry.
This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League. Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri - Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.