Oleksandr Usyk defended his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles with a ninth-round stoppage over Daniel Dubois but the win was not without controversy due to a controversial shot deemed an illegal blow by referee Luis Pabon earlier in the fight.
Usyk fell to the floor in the opening 30 seconds of the fifth after a Dubois right hand met his waistband.
Pabon adjudged the shot an illegal one and so afforded the Ukrainian 3 minutes 45 seconds to recover despite many feeling the shot fell inside the rules.
Usyk regrouped and eventually dropped the Briton in the eighth and ninth rounds – the latter being the fight’s final moment as Dubois failed to make the referee’s count at Poland’s Wroclaw Stadium.
Usyk dominates the early stages
The opening sessions saw Dubois struggle to close the distance as Usyk dazzled with a prodding southpaw jab to bank the early rounds.
Despite opting to throw his own jab, Dubois’ shots often fell short of the target as the champion continued to edge in and out of range.
A right to the body in the final minute of the second however provided an indication of Dubois’ best route to victory however and he looked to increase his urgency in the third.
Usyk was making Dubois work incredibly hard just to match him though, and upped the tempo himself in the final 30 seconds of the third to collect another round in his favour.Embed from Getty Images
Above: Dubois struggled to close the distance in the opening stages. Photo by Getty Images.
Dubois was breathing heavily as he headed back to his corner and continued to fall short with his own work in the fourth.
The champion’s judging of distance was superb, moving out of range so to evade the shots of Dubois but was still close enough to step in with his own counters moments later.
Not through lack of effort, Dubois had struggled to gain a single round after the opening third of the bout.
Controversy – legal or low blow?
The controversial moment came in the opening 30 seconds of the fifth with both men poised in the centre of the Polish ring.
Another Dubois jab was met by the arms of the Ukrainian but a short right hook slipped below moments later, landing below the belt-line and causing Usyk to drop to the canvas.
Referee Pabon didn’t hesitate to signal the shot fell outside of the rules and immediately gestured that Usyk would be afforded time to recover.
The call immediately drew criticism on social media, with many claiming Dubois had been ‘robbed’ of the unified heavyweight titles as Usyk remained on the canvas, his left glove seemingly trembling such was the impact of the blow that had pummelled him moments earlier.
Shouts that Usyk’s shorts were too high – despite them clearly pictured sitting below his naval before and during the contest – were used to backup claims that an injustice had occurred.
Replays however clearly show that the shot had in fact landed on the bladder, and therefore below the areas a fighter is allowed to land.
It is also important to note that protests from Dubois himself were mute at the time, despite later claims he had been stiffed later on, perhaps an indicator that the 25 year old also knew he had committed a foul.
Usyk regroups to close the show
The action finally resumed almost four minutes after the shot in question had landed and more Usyk complaints came halfway through the round after another Dubois attack to the body.
This time the shots looked legitimate however and regardless of the legality of what had occurred earlier on, Usyk was clearly shaken.
Whether it be through lack of experience or lack of belief in his own gas tank, Dubois didn’t set about the champion in the way you would expect.
In fact, it was Usyk who finished the round the stronger of the two with a couple of stiff jabs to bank another round in his favour.
Dubois continued to attack the body in the sixth and enjoyed his best of the contest so far with the Ukrainian still clearly wounded from the previous round.Embed from Getty Images
Above: Usyk was dominant despite the controversy in the fifth. Photo by Getty Images.
The seventh however saw Usyk’s experience come through.
Dubois was enjoying a good round up to that point, seemingly renewed from his success in the sixth, but the final minute saw Usyk increase the tempo again and rock the challenger with a short left hook.
A similar pattern emerged in the eighth with Usyk conserving his energy for another strong finish which this time saw him bundle Dubois to the canvas.
A right to the temple looked to scramble the senses of Dubois before two left hooks forced him to his knees.
Only seconds remained in the round, fortunately for the Brit, but Usyk’s momentum grew further in the ninth where another southpaw jab floored Dubois again with 1 minute 23 remaining.
Dubois was clearly wounded and failed to make the referee’s count to signal a successful homecoming for Usyk in front of an adoring Ukrainian and Polish crowd.Embed from Getty Images
Above: Usyk floors Dubois for a second and final time in the ninth. Photo: Getty Images.
Team Dubois call for a rematch after the ‘robbery’ in Poland
Post-fight predictably drew protest in the Dubois corner, with both trainer Don Charles and promoter Frank Warren branding the call in the fifth a ‘hometown decision’.
“I thought that landed. I’ve been cheated out of victory tonight,” declared Dubois.
The sentiments were echoed by Warren who insists he will lobby for a rematch following the controversial call in Wroclaw.
Usyk meanwhile insisted both in the ring and the post-fight press conference that the shot had only met “his balls” and Pabon had made the correct call on the night.
The 36 year old also took time to thank his fellow Ukrainians, many of whom where in the Wroclaw Stadium on the night, after a difficult 18 months for the country following the Russian invasion last year.
“I am grateful for my team, my family, my children…my country and Ukrainian army. Thank you so much.”
Potential Fury showdown next?
Attention soon turned to a potential undisputed heavyweight showdown with WBC champion Tyson Fury, with Usyk insisting he’s “ready tomorrow” should the fight be put to him.
“I am ready. Listen, I’m ready. Next fight, I’m ready. But, [what] Tyson Fury wants, I have no idea.”
Fury is set to meet former MMA star Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on October 28th after talks for a fight with Usyk collapsed in March.