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Men’s boxing In defence of Daniel Dubois

PRIOR to his fight against Joe Joyce at the York Hall in London last weekend, Daniel Dubois was being touted as a future heavyweight world champion by the boxing cognoscenti. 

Current and former elite fighters and world champions, mainstream pundits, promoters — all were joined in ironclad consensus when it came to the raw ability and wondrous potential of the 23-year-old Londoner.

Now, after the fight, which Joyce won after Dubois took a knee in the 10th round to signal that he’d had enough, the very same boxing cognoscenti is cohered around a markedly different consensus on Daniel Dubois. 

Now, with the kind of acute shape-shifting that even David Icke would find impressive, Dubois has found himself being denigrated as a quitter by the likes of David Haye, Carl Frampton, Peter Fury and Chris Eubank Jnr — the latter going so far as to described the sight of Dubois taking a knee “disgusting.” 

Dillian Whyte, knocked out cold in his last fight against Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin, went even further than that: labelling Dubois a cunt, along with his promoter Frank Warren. 

Most galling of all was promoter and Matchroom Boxing supremo Eddie Hearn questioning whether the reports of Dubois suffering a fractured orbital bone were actually true, asking with a smug grin on his face during an interview with Kugan Cassius whether any medical charts or pictures of X-rays verifying the fact have been made public, before going on to lambast Dubois’s body language throughout the fight and slagging him off for being beaten by Joyce’s jab.

From an Essex multi-millionaire silver-spooned scion of privilege who’s probably fractured nothing more serious in his life than a crystal chandelier, this left a particularly sour taste.

For those, like myself, who haven’t had the benefit of studying to any great degree the human anatomy, allow me to share the fruits of my research on the subject. The orbital bone is the generic name for the bones that surround the eye. 

When one or more of these bones suffer a fracture the result beyond a certain point can be anything from permanent double vision to blindness in the eye affected.

As to the pain of an orbital bone fracture, this is guaranteed to be severe given the density of the sensory pain fibres that exist in this particular region of the face.

The same injury compelled Kell Brook to take a knee against Errol Spence when they fought in 2017. And, yes, Brook, like Dubois this past week, found himself showered in invective from various voices within the sport afterwards, denigrated for “quitting.”

Dostoevky himself could not conjure up a more profound or deep insight into the more malign aspects of the human condition than that offered up by naysayers when it comes to the character of Daniel Dubois. 

In taking a knee as he did when he did against Joe Joyce last weekend, Dubois did not commit the supposed crime of quitting in a boxing ring. He instead instinctively embraced self-preservation. His was not a case of a fighter quitting, it was a case of a fighter no longer being able to continue due to injury. 

The vitriol directed at him for doing so says more about the base and regressive culture surrounding the sport than it does Daniel Dubois. It’s a culture that almost succeeds in making the sport repellent. 

In MMA fighters routinely tap out without finding themselves held up as public enemies. In football, that other sport synonymous with the working class, no-one in their right mind would label a player a quitter or a cunt for limping off the pitch with a broken foot.

Compounding the egregious chorus of criticism unleashed against Dubois is that last year professional boxing witnessed four ring fatalities.

It begs the question of just what will it take before those who prefer blood and guts (literally) in a boxing ring to skill and nobility are reaquainted with their humanity?

In hindsight, Dubois’ corner should have pulled him out rather let him go out for the 10th round. By then his left eye was completely closed and swollen to the point of looking like a small football.

Thus, if there is to be any criticism levelled it should be at trainer Martin Bowers for allowing his fighter to continue. 

Boxing is a sport. It is not an exercise in defying the laws of human anatomy. Keeping this in mind is the obligation of its writers, pundits, promoters and former fighters if it is to retain its place and credibility in the real world.

Speaking of the real world, it’s hard to explain the lack of financial support for amateur boxing in Britain to help the sport navigate the impact of Covid-19 other than Tory disdain for working-class communities in which these clubs are rooted.

Compare and contrast the lack of financial aid to amateur boxing with the £40 million that’s been funnelled to the horse racing industry. 

Here, Tory cronyism rears its head.

Dido Harding, appointed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to launch and lead Britain’s test and trace system earlier this year despite having zero, absolutely zero, experience of working in health previously, also happens to be on the board of the Jockey Club.

Hancock, meanwhile, is the MP for Newmarket, where the Jockey Club runs a luxury hotel and has various other business interests and investments. According to a Mirror exposé back in July, Hancock himself has received £350,000 in political donations from wealthy figures in the racing industry.

Earlier this year the decision to allow the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead, just over a week prior to the country going into lockdown on March 23, was taken at Hancock’s behest in the face of strong warnings from epidemiologists and medical scientists of the catastrophic consequences that would ensue with regard to the spread of Covid-19. 

Those warnings were ignored and 250,000 people were allowed to gather over the course of the four-day festival, which constitutes an annual financial bonanza for the racing industry.

While amateur boxing clubs have been forced to close across the country due to the lack of funding and support, never forget that even in the midst of a pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on working-class communities, this rancid Tory Establishment still found a way to cash in and make it pay handsomely for them and theirs.

’Twas ever thus.

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