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THERE has always been something wonderfully compelling about a domestic heavyweight tear up. They are fights that have established a place and tradition all their own, providing spills and thrills while spawning some of the sport’s most memorable and bitter rivalries.
Tonight sees Daniel DuBois and Nathan Gorman keep the tradition alive in a fight that has all the makings of a barnstormer. Both will be meeting in the centre of ring at London’s O2 armed with undefeated records, both know one another well from their amateur days and there is a healthy sprinkling of bad feeling to ensure that in addition to the vacant British title, pride is on the line.
At just 21 and 23 respectively, huge credit devolves to both men and their camps for being willing to take such a competitive fight at this stage of their careers. It also bodes well for the sport; evidence that it has begun to evolve beyond the era of treating undefeated records as precious as the crown jewels, and protected accordingly.
DuBois and Gorman each carry juice in their hands — DuBois having stopped 10 of his 11 opponents, Gorman stopping 11 of his 16 — and both know what it’s like to operate in the late rounds.
Gorman is the more pleasing on the eye style-wise, he is faster and more elusive, while DuBois has the longer reach, a jab that could knock holes in a brick wall and emits an aura of menace when at work.
Trained by Ricky Hatton, Gorman has appeared the more relaxed of the two in the lead-up, making great play of the fact that in his opinion he never lost a round of the many he sparred with DuBois when they were part of the Team GB set-up. “I was up there for three years,” he said, “and we’d probably do maybe six to eight to 10 rounds a day. You’re building up a lot of rounds there, two to 300 rounds. I never lost a round.”
Bold words, but not any more so than DuBois’s claim that Gorman will be his easiest fight to date.
Though rare to see two undefeated fighters battle it out for the British heavyweight title, it is not unheard of. Back in 1991 a young loose-limbed Lennox Lewis clashed with Gary Mason for the British and European titles. It was a brutal affair, which ended in victory for Lewis by TKO in the seventh round, Mason unable to continue due to cuts.
More recently in 2015 Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte brought undefeated records and a massive amount of animus to the ring for the vacant British title, and likewise produced a classic. Though Joshua emerged victorious, knocking his opponent out in the seventh, Whyte rocked him in the second with a vicious left hook.
The point is that despite losing, Whyte’s career still progressed, to the point where he is now considered one of the best heavyweights in the world, ranked No 1 contender by the WBC and in line for a crack at a world title. Whyte’s progress since losing to Joshua should give DuBois and Gorman added confidence when it comes to laying everything on the line tonight.
The undercard also features some decent fare. The chief support sees Britain’s Joe Joyce against America’s Bryant Jennings in what could be a tough test for the massive Londoner, who’ll be fighting for the first time with Adam Booth in his corner.
Joyce is another top British heavyweight prospect. He possesses the engine of your average Sherman Tank and has put together an impressive string of victories since arriving on the pro scene in 2017; knocking out all nine opponents he’s faced between then and now as he strives to get his own shot at a world title before long. In Jennings, he’s facing an experienced campaigner, a man who’s been in with the likes of Wladimir Klitschko, losing by unanimous decision.
On balance, Joyce should have enough in the tank to prevail, but if Jennings comes to fight, really fight, it could be a long night.
Speaking of Dillian Whyte, he goes again next Saturday against the undefeated and formidable Colombian Oscar Rivas, headlining a card that includes another potentially superb British domestic heavyweight showdown between David Price and Dave Allen. Again, the venue will be the O2 in London, but this time with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom promoting rather than Frank Warren.
Dave Allen has looked an altogether different animal since teaming up with former middleweight world champion Darren Barker. Watching footage of him working on the pads with Barker is like watching a young Mike Tyson, the way he moves from the hips and throws vicious uppercuts and hooks with alarming speed from different angles.
It’s hard to see Price being able to live with this kind of movement and speed, even though the big Liverpudlian possesses the power to stop anyone in the division.
Overall, the renaissance of British heavyweight boxing continues to light up the sport, almost as if two generations of heavyweights have come along at the same time. It really does seem a lifetime ago that Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno and Gary Mason were carrying the flag, vying for the right to be considered the best in the country. In fact one of the best heavyweight fights there’s ever been in Britain took place during this period between Lewis and Bruno in Cardiff.
On a rain-soaked night at Cardiff Arms Park they met in front of a huge crowd, the majority there hoping to see Bruno put the London-born Canadian interloper in his place.
It was covered by the venerable Hugh McIlvanney, who wrote: “When Welsh rain gave way to Caribbean thunder, Frank Bruno provided far more than his expected share of it and Lennox Lewis had to survive some of the most alarming moments of his boxing life before keeping his version of the world heavyweight title by battering the challenger into state of piteous helplessness in the middle of the seventh round.”
What a writer, what a fight, and what a great week of British heavyweight boxing lies ahead.
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