5 minutes read

Disputed Low Blow Ruins Oleksandr Usyk’s Winning Performance Against Dubois

Disputed Low Blow Ruins Oleksandr Usyk's Winning Performance Against Dubois featured image
WROCLAW, POLAND - AUGUST 26: Oleksandr Usyk reacts after being knocked down by Daniel Dubois during the Heavyweight fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois at Stadion Wroclaw on August 26, 2023 in Wroclaw, Poland. (Photo by Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)

Last Saturday’s heavyweight championship match between Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois produced nothing short of controversy after Usyk managed to stop the latter in the 9th round. Though Usyk won by knockout, the apparent low blow he suffered in the 5th round garnered most of the attention, rather than the performance by Usyk which saw him dominate most of the rounds with precise, fluid, and effective boxing. The match took place at the Stadium Wroclaw, located in Wroclaw, Poland.

Overall, it was a match in which Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KO’s), 36, showcased exactly why he was a legitimate threat in the division. With his speed and surprising power on full display, Usyk worked on Dubois (19-2, 18 KO’s) and gradually weakened the younger Brit with his volume and accurate punching. His younger opponent by more than a decade, Daniel Dubois, didn’t fare well in many rounds, as he struggled to be effective with his jab and had many of his blows blocked. Usyk significantly more skilled and better conditioned than Dubois and managed to convincingly win or even dominate the rounds that he secured.

However, Dubois did prove to be a threat himself in the earlier rounds, with the heavy blows he landed on Usyk making a noticeable impact, particularly his body shots which became evident in the fifth round.

During the fifth round, Daniel Dubois landed a debilitating blow to the left side of Usyk’s body. This became a turning point in the match as Oleksandr Usyk dropped to the ground, clearly hurt. The referee ruled it a low blow, and Usyk was granted an extra 5 minutes to recover, even though he signaled his readiness to continue after 3 minutes.

This part of the match has sparked a split in opinions for multiple reasons. The definition of a low blow is generally accepted as a punch that lands on or below the beltline, as determined by the referee. This often relies on the point where the trunks meet.

The controversy arises from the referee’s interpretation of the beltline. In this case, the referee defined the beltline as the point where the top of Usyk’s trunks were, supposedly covering the navel. Any punch below or on that imaginary line was considered a low blow.

However, it’s important to note that low blows generally refer to direct hits to the groin. Although referees usually indicate where punches are allowed or not, Dubois was seen hitting Usyk’s belly, not his groin.

The current interpretation of this rule is that Daniel Dubois did hit a part of Usyk’s body that was deemed illegal, according to the referee’s interpretation, hence the decision to rule Dubois’ punch a low blow. However, Dubois did not strike Usyk’s groin directly, which could be interpreted as a legal punch in some cases.

Though the referee’s decision has been generally accepted, this aspect of the match will likely be debated and scrutinized for some time, given the high stakes involved in a heavyweight championship bout for 3 world titles.

Following the 5-minute recovery period, Usyk intensified his efforts and delivered an elite-level performance, concluding the show in the 9th round with a solid jab that forced Dubois to his knees. While there may be debate about whether Dubois was genuinely hurt or not, he failed to beat the count following the knockdown, and the match was ruled a knockout victory as per the 10-count rule.

Disputed Low Blow Ruins Oleksandr Usyk's Winning Performance Against Dubois image 1
WROCLAW, POLAND – AUGUST 26: Daniel Dubois reacts after being knocked down by Oleksandr Usyk during the Heavyweight fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois at Stadion Wroclaw on August 26, 2023 in Wroclaw, Poland. (Photo by Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)

Apart from the controversy in the 5th round, Usyk put on a statement performance, seemingly gaining more confidence and boxing ability with each passing round. This might not be too surprising considering Usyk had been dealing with ring rust after a year of inactivity. His ability to manage that ring rust and even improve during the fight underscores why he has been on the pound-for-pound list for years.

Additionally, Usyk won The Ring lineal heavyweight title alongside the defense of his three world titles. The Ring title was vacated shortly before the fight, and made available for this match. Oddly enough, the Ring lineal belt is usually contested between the best two fighters in the division.

While Usyk has been considered one of the best two heavyweights on The Ring’s rankings for little longer than a year, Tyson Fury is the other boxer who occupies the same spot as the #1 heavyweight in the world according to The Ring. Needless to say, The Ring belt should not have been available given Daniel Dubois was not considered one of the two best heavyweights on The Ring Boxing Magazine’s official rankings for the heavyweight division.

The rest of the card showcased an array of Polish and Ukrainian fighters, with most representing these countries emerging as winners. The notable upset of the event, if it could be called that, was British contender Hamzah Sheeraz’s (18-0, 14 KO’s) victory over Dmytro Mytrofanov (13-1-1, 6 KO’s).

Disputed Low Blow Ruins Oleksandr Usyk's Winning Performance Against Dubois image 2
Hamzah Sheeraz during boxing gala in Wroclaw, Poland on August 26, 2023. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Both middleweights were undefeated, but Mytrofanov had the hometown advantage due to the Polish venue serving as a substitute for Ukraine, given the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Sheeraz stopped Mytrofanov in just two rounds, ending the Ukrainian’s unbeaten record. This victory not only extended Sheeraz’s own undefeated streak but also added a significant KO win to his record.

The co-main event featured a bout between lightweights Denys Berinchyk (18-0, 9 KO’s) and Swedish contender Anthony Yigit (27-4-1, 10 KO’s). Yigit, a mid-tier contender with two fights earlier in the year, showed resilience by lasting all 12 rounds against Berinchyk, ultimately losing by unanimous decision. Berinchyk maintained his unbeaten record and appears to be closer to becoming a genuine world title contender.

Oleksandr Usyk’s victory over a top 10 contender seems to have reaffirmed his status as the world’s unified heavyweight champion. However, the controversy surrounding the illegal blow by Daniel Dubois in the 5th round will likely continue, but Usyk can take confidence in his performance that followed and has rightfully reclaimed his position as one of the world’s best fighters.

For now, Oleksandr Usyk remains the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world champion but with potential fights against IBF interim champion Filip Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KO’s) and WBC champion Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KO’s) lurking, Usyk’s reign as unified heavyweight champion can still be contested.