Usyk to defend titles against Dubois

Oleksandr Usyk defends his heavyweight boxing titles for the first time in a year when he faces hard-hitting British challenger, Daniel Dubois, on Saturday in Wroclaw in a clash of styles. A win could revive plans for a unifi­cation fight with Tyson Fury.

The Ukrainian champion, who took up a rifle when his country was invaded by Russia last year, is set to have passionate backing from the crowd in Poland, which is a close ally of Ukraine. Poland has hosted many Ukraini­ans during the war.

Usyk has not fought since a rematch with Anthony Joshua in August 2022 in Saudi Arabia, after talks broke down to stage a fight with WBC champion,Fury, which would have crowned the first un­disputed men’s world heavyweight champion since 2000.

Expect the fight with Dubois, the WBA’s mandatory challenger, to follow a familiar playbook for Usyk.

Just as he did against Joshua and in his earlier years unifying the cruiserweight division, the Ukrainian will look to dictate the pace of the fight with slick movement a legacy of his Olym­pic gold-medal amateur career and leave Dubois unable to land a decisive punch.

Dubois is a heavy hitter, even if he lacks speed. There is a prec­edent for Usyk being rattled by an opponent who just keeps advanc­ing and shrugs off punches, as seen in his narrow win on points over Derek Chisora in 2020.

Dubois also showed plenty of guts when he recovered from being knocked down three times in the first round to beat Kevin Lerena in his last fight in Decem­ber, even if a fighter of Usyk’s caliber might not have given him the chance.

The concerns over Dubois are the lack of big names on his 19-1 record, and the nature of his sole defeat. Dubois was knocked out in the 10th round in 2020 by British fighter, Joe Joyce, after sustaining damage to his eye socket.

There could be another push for a long-awaited unification bout with Fury which would be Usyk’s fifth fight in a row against a British opponent after Chisora, Joshua twice and Dubois. However, Fury is fighting former UFC champion, Francis Ngannou, in Saudi Arabia in October. It is a non-title fight so Fury’s WBC belt will not be on the line.

The unbeaten FilipHrgović is hoping the IBF names him as its mandatory challenger to face either Usyk or Dubois. The Croatian is an Olympic bronze medalist with a 16-0 pro record, who stopped Demsey McKean on the undercard of Joshua’s win over Helenius.

The WBO has Chinese boxer, Zhang Zhilei, as its “interim” champion. The 40-year-old Zhang lost to Hrgović last year but stopped Joyce in May. —AP

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