The rain falling at Stadion Wroclaw had meant that by the start of Oleksandr Usyk-Daniel Dubois numerous outer ringside seats had been deserted for others with better cover from the elements, and that the areas immediately ringside had become so crowded that immediately after the fight had concluded it had become pointless attempting to follow what was unfolding in the ring.
Frank Warren’s amplified voice was regardless as instantly recognisable as it was predictable he would insist his fighter was the victim of an injustice, and was then followed by the heartbroken roar of Don Charles, a trainer who more than most feels his fighters’ pain.
Charles was still visibly hurt at the post-fight press conference not attended by Dubois when Warren, the consummate professional instinctively seizing the latest opportunity to promote his promising fighter, spoke of “lobbying” the WBA. The hall of fame promoter also referenced having “been around long enough” in boxing to recognise what Dubois had encountered in Poland, and though he didn’t say it, that he unquestionably has means that he will also know that the WBA – as driven by self-interest as any of the sanctioning bodies – will have little desire to help their cause.
“I’ve worked with the referee [Luis Pabon] for a number of years and have always had the utmost respect for him,” continued Warren, sounding subtly different to the occasions he has been on the wrong side of something indisputably unjust. “I don’t think he is crooked, I just think he got it wrong. I think he got it totally wrong.
“If you get something wrong, you hold your hands up. Look at the photograph, any of you guys – a lot of you have sent it to me. I have looked back at it on TV and it is on the waistband of the shorts which is a legitimate target area. It is a fact.”
Were Warren not also guiding the career of Tyson Fury and aware that Usyk’s perceived vulnerability may yet contribute to the lucrative fight between the world’s two leading heavyweights being made he may have been considerably more frustrated. He will also know that at 25 Dubois is in his infancy for a heavyweight, that in only two of 21 fights he has taken something close to sustained punishment, and that the significant step up in class he had so willingly embraced was greater than most would ever be expected to – that if not his reputation, then his profile has unquestionably been enhanced.
The last time one of his fighters was such an underdog in similar circumstances came in Russia in 2019 in the fight between Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde. Yarde lost for the first time after surpassing most expectations by seriously hurting Kovalev; that when he fought Artur Beterbiev in January he did so as a higher-profile, significantly improved and less naive fighter owed much to what he had gained in experience almost four years before.
Unlike Charles, Dubois spoke like an individual on message before he left the ring in Wroclaw, but when he did so he was no more transparent than Usyk and those in the Ukrainian’s team. Russ Anber – as loyal to Usyk’s cause as Charles is to Dubois – approached Boxing News at the start of Usyk’s press conference to show a photo on his phone portraying Dubois hitting Usyk low. It therefore came as little surprise when Alex Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter, unveiled the very same photo from his phone once sat at the top table, and when Anber – who like Charles would only have done so if he truly believed his fighter was the wronged party – stood to one side ready to respond to a prompt to offer his experienced view.
“Do we have a definition of legal and illegal?” Krassyuk asked. “Russ?” Anber – at one point flanked by Vasyl Lomachenko and also considerably more comfortable speaking English than any of his colleagues – conveniently did.
Had any present been among those wondering whether Usyk had feigned the discomfort of an hour or so earlier they would also have quickly realised he is a significantly worse actor than he is fighter when he unconvincingly responded, to a question regarding a potential rematch, with “Who?”
It was tempting to wonder if he had intentionally manipulated Pabon by complaining about body punches thrown before the fifth round; as those around Dubois had attempted to earlier, he then did what he could to control the narrative, aware that his status as a Ukrainian icon meant that the increased numbers present at his press conference compared to his opponent’s were ready to share his beliefs.
“I’m ready for one more fight [with Dubois] tomorrow in a rematch, in a street fight,” he said, his tongue firmly in cheek in an attempt to defuse any potential tension. Saturday’s fight was his first opportunity to make the nature of statement that might challenge Terence Crawford’s new status as the world’s finest fighter. At no point, however, did doing so appear a priority for Usyk in the same way as fighting Fury or being an ambassador for his war-torn country at so difficult a time.
“These people are incredible,” he continued on a subject Warren and Charles had also already acknowledged. “Special, special people. I thank you, my country. I thank you, my followers. It’s great. Thank you so much.
“We have some big troubles in Ukraine. The war is in Ukraine. And for those guys who are defending our country on the front line it’s a breath of fresh air. And I am ready to give all of my fresh air to my people.”
Dubois was said to have made a swift exit, post-fight, having required consoling over what he had come to believe was an unjust defeat. On Sunday at his hotel in the city centre he was nowhere to be seen and said to instead be with his father David recuperating from the night that could yet define his career.
Charles, James Ali Bashir and their trusted cornerman Tony Pill instead attempted to tend to their heartache by keeping each other company. It was too soon for them to take comfort in the knowledge that Dubois – the victim of a controversy and not a high-profile defeat – can be expected to come again.