When the lights dim, the music hits and the ring announcer begins his introductions, one of Britain’s most reserved fight figures will be preparing to let his fists do the talking.
Heavyweight contender Daniel Dubois meets Nathan Gorman, an old rival, sparring partner and housemate from the Team Great Britain amateur set-up three years ago in a fight that is capturing the imagination.
Dubois (11-0, 10 knockouts) is convinced that, at the O2 Arena on the biggest night of his boxing life, he will not blink.
“It’s game on, it’s fight time,” he said, anticipating the feeling before the first bell in a huge early fight. “I’m going to be in the zone. I’m going to be going through what I’ve got to do in my mind and I’m going to be going through plans and strategies and things like that. It’s been building for weeks. Now I’m looking forward to getting it all out of my system, all the hard work and putting it all out there.”
Dubois has had to do unprecedented press and media engagements. He’s done pad work with Frank Bruno where he trains, in Canning Town’s Peacock Gym, and he’s also sat down in a Face Off style show with Gorman (16-0, 11 KOs) and broadcaster Steve Bunce. The limelight is novel, even though he always expected it.
“It’s different,” he admitted. “It’s new. It’s all experience and it’s a step in my career and what is required. It’s what I have to do, so I’m all for it.”
Seasoned onlookers have compared this to another Frank Warren promotion, when he paired unbeaten super-middleweight hopefuls George Groves and James DeGale. Both went on to win world titles, but for Dubois there is no second place on Saturday.
“I’m not at all putting losing in my mind, I’m winning 100 percent,” he said. “I’m winning. I wouldn’t have trained weeks and weeks beforehand … that’s not my mindset at all.”
And he claims he is a different fighter to the one who shared sparring rounds with Gorman in Team GB’s Sheffield set up, saying he’s improved as a boxer and that he carries more pop in his gloves.
“My power has come on leaps and bounds,” he continued. “I’ve got heavier, I’ve got stronger, and I’m getting older. I’m becoming a man now, more than I was. I’m maturing in every way. I’m getting better in every way and I think definitely my power’s improved.”
The fight is for the vacant British heavyweight title, but Dubois has loftier career goals than that, though cautious of looking too far ahead.
“Not just that,” he said of what he hopes to go on to achieve. “Of course, that’s the main focus right now and I’m not looking past anything on Saturday, I’m fully focused on Saturday.”
He has sparred the likes of Lawrence Okolie and Martin Bakole.
Martin Bowers, Daniel’s trainer, is confident his man is ready.
“There’s been no quarter given and none asked for and if you watched it [sparring] you’d be saying you would have paid for it,” he commented.
He is also pleased with how Dubois has come on and taken the build-up in stride.
“I’m seeing a very focused and determined young man who’s looking forward to showing off some of his skills on Saturday night,” he added, before saying the fight may not unfold how people expect, with his fighter, the puncher, and Gorman, the boxer. “Nathan can punch and Daniel can box. Nathan’s got 11 knockouts on his record, that’s the same amount of fights as Dan’s had. So come on, he can punch. But Daniel can also box.”
Bowers is sure the big occasion won’t faze Dubois, whose tunnel vision will mean the accessories of the evening will not come in to play.
He also said that while the young Dubois, still only 21, may peak around 25 or 26, and the 23-year-old Gorman, are yet to find their best form “what a fight it is. It’s a great fight.”
In that respect it’s about timing, two young, ambitious rivals fighting their way up the ladder,” Bowers said. “The winner rolls on, the loser can come again, right?
“That’s not what we’re training for, with the greatest of respect. For us, we want to go forward. That’s Daniel’s mindset.”
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