How Oleksandr Usyk dominated Daniel Dubois: Boxing Breakdown

There was some below-the-belt controversy over this one, but past that Oleksandr Usyk put in another display of boxing mastery as he wore down and beat Daniel Dubois. Let's take a look at the tools he used to do it.

By: Lukasz Fenrych | 1 month ago
How Oleksandr Usyk dominated Daniel Dubois: Boxing Breakdown
Imago/Newspix/Pawel Andrachiewicz

It’s fair to say that Oleksandr Usyk’s win over Daniel Dubois was not without controversy. A blow around his beltline area in round 5 saw him drop to the floor and recieve five minutes of recovery time, when many observers thought the shot was sound. We’ve got to acknowledge it, but we’re not really here to talk about it, so let’s take it as it was called and take a look at how, outside of that moment, Oleksandr Usyk dominated and won the fight.

See our round-by-round coverage of the fight here.

The Breakdown: How Oleksandr Usyk beat Daniel Dubois

Oleksandr Usyk‘s fights tend to be dominated by two things- his jab and his rapid circling movement. This time proved no different, and if anything theor effectiveness was accentuated. That’s because of Dubois’ particular flaws, which is to say that he’s quite a straight-lined fighter and struggled to adjust to the angles. That in turn caused the jab to be extra-effective, as he was catching Dubois off-balance with it in a way he wouldn’t against fighters better able to pivot with him.

That pretty much defined the fight. It’s not that Dubois didn’t have ideas, or moments of success. There were a number of things he did to try to intercept Oleksandr Usyk’s movement, and his own jab was good when he got it flowing. But his entire gameplan was about prevention of, rather than response to, Usyk’s movement. He had no backup plan if that prevention didn’t work, and that left him vulnerable.

Oleksandr Usyk catches Dubois off-guard in their championship fight.
Imago/Newspix/Pawel Andrachiewicz

Oleksandr Usyk caught Dubois off-balance on multiple occasions throughout the fight. You can see here that his posture is all wrong to take the punch, twisted and with his feet not under him.

We saw that from the very first round. Despite his coach’s talk of bullying and dominating physically early, Dubois actually came out patiently, working his jab and trying to draw Oleksandr Usyk on to intercepting shots as he stepped in. He got a couple home, when the champion came straight up the middle- but any time he stepped around him and closed, Dubois found himself off-balance and reacting to some fairly light shots.

His response was to try to close off that movement with hooks. The problem was that mostly he threw one type of hook with each hand- a left upstairs and a right across the body. With the same timing and little set-up on either one. It wasn’t without success, he landed both a few times- but because they were predictable, they didn’t significantly impede Usyk’s movement. A couple of foot-feints and fakes to draw responses and make sure that shot wasn’t on, and he was able to get around fine.

As the fight warmed up, Dubois did start to get a bit more aggressive and try to push Usyk back- but similar problems applied. He could push forward and get his opponent on the back foot, but he didn’t have the footwork to stop him circling out.

He did also start to employ an uppercut to the body, a punch that became very relevant in the fifth with the controversial blow- but it was also probably his most significant punch for (legitimate) damage outside of that. Being right down the middle, it wasn’t one Usyk could easily avoid as he circled back and forth, so Dubois got some joy out of it.

The effects of the controversial non-KD went beyond just the punch itself though. The response pretty much defined the pattern of the rest of the fight. It changed the mindset of both fighters- Usyk went from patient to irritated, and Dubois initially thought to capitalise on what he saw as a vulnerable opponent by pushing the pace. That latter got him in trouble immediately, and we saw one last big flaw in his game- his gas tank.

Simply enough, he gave it a go for about thirty seconds after the resumption of the fight, then had to back down and Usyk took over the round. That continued for the remainder of the fight- Dubois would start off strong, trying to catch Usyk with something hurtful, but he could never make it last. On several occasions he did get a reaction with a single shot- but he never had the energy to follow it up with a combination.

The Finish: how did Oleksandr Usyk get it done?

Oleksandr Usyk, on the other hand, smelled blood. Each round, he’d start pushing hard a little earlier in. In the eighth, a sustained attack for the last 30 seconds saw Dubois reeling and taking a knee on the bell. He got up and came out for the ninth, but at that point Usyk evidently decided there was no serious power coming back and pushed hard straight away.

Dubois, clearly exhausted, could not keep up. He tried to back Usyk off with his own punches, but he could only managed that for a few seconds before needing a reset. Eventually, after nearly two minutes of this, he found himself struggling to turn with yet another Usyk angle and got caught with a straight right as he came around. It wasn’t a hard punch, but it dropped him and he didn’t beat the count.

The Future: what’s next for Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois?

Well, Dubois and his team are claiming outrage and calling for a rematch. They’re not likely to get one mandated officially, but the attention this has generated may make it a financially sensible move for Usyk, so it may happen.

Probably not next though, as Usyk has his next mandatory challenger to take care of – Filip Hrgovic, who has been sitting on a guaranteed shot since a controversial win over Zhilei Zhang last year. It doesn’t seem like he’ll be on Usyk’s level, but he’s not a bad fighter and Usyk will have to take care of business.

For Dubois, beyond the rematch, it’s a case of learning and rebuilding. There’s plenty in the division for him, and a few upcoming fighters he can build rivalries with. He’ll need to continue polishing his game though, adding depth and if at all possible doing something about that gas tank.

If he can, he’s got a decent chance to challenge for titles again in future – Usyk at 36 probably doesn’t have that long left, and when he retires there’ll be openings for the next generation.

But on the evidence of this, despite some controversy, there’s a little while yet before that happens. Let’s enjoy him while he’s here.

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About the author
Lukasz Fenrych
Lukasz Fenrych

Lukasz Fenrych is an analyst and writer. He has been covering combat sports since 2019, and joined Bloody Elbow's boxing team in 2022.

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