Unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk returns to the ring on Saturday, though not against the opponent boxing fans have been hoping for. Rather than a showdown with WBC champ Tyson Fury to crown an undisputed champion, Usyk will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO titles against Daniel Dubois on Saturday in Wroclaw, Poland.
The fight with Fury has been discussed, teased and even briefly negotiated. But, after the two sides failed to come to terms, Usyk’s attention turned toward his list of mandatory challengers. The first man up was WBA mandatory Dubois.
The Brit has been climbing the ranks to contender status since suffering a setback in the form of a TKO loss to Joe Joyce in November 2020. In June 2022, Dubois picked up a dominant win over Trevor Bryan to win the WBA’s secondary title. The win over Bryan was Dubois’ third since the loss to Joyce and put him in line for the biggest fight of his career.
“I’m ready. I’ve suffered through training camp. I’ve done all of that. I’m ready now. I’ve prepared,” Dubois said at the final press conference. “I’ve left no stone unturned. I’m ready. I’m confident. I’m ready to go right now.”
Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of Usyk vs. Dubois below.
Things almost came tumbling down for Dubois in his next outing. Defending his secondary belt against unheralded heavyweight Kevin Lerena, Dubois hit the canvas three times in the opening round through a combination of getting caught with punches and a knee injury. Despite the terrible start to the fight, Dubois came back and scored the stoppage after three rounds.
Usyk, a former undisputed champion at cruiserweight, has been out of action for a year. In his most recent fight, Usyk beat Anthony Joshua by decision in a rematch of their September 2021 bout that was also the fight where Usyk won his three world titles. That was also only Usyk’s fourth fight at heavyweight.
“My preparation is all good. We did a lot of work with swimming. We played football. We danced,” Usyk said at the final press conference. “I’m grateful to my team, my family, my wife. I’m grateful to my country and to Ukrainian soldiers.”
Should Usyk do as expected by experts and at the sportsbook window, where he is a -1200 favorite to win, fans will again turn their hopes to Usyk and Fury being able to make a deal to crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era. That also requires Fury to do the expected and win his Oct. 28 bout with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
With the way previous negotiations for the Fury fight have fallen apart even when Usyk’s side agreed to the short end of a 70/30 purse split, those same fans likely will not be holding their breath that the fight will come together.
IBF mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic is next in line and has already said he not only does not expect Fury and Usyk to come to terms for the fight but also has no desire to take step-aside money to allow it to go through.
“They don’t want to do that fight, Fury’s fighting some guy who’s never boxed before, they don’t want to do that,” Hrgovic told TalkSport. “So fight your mandatories, I’m not gonna step aside and I want to get my shot. I deserve it, I work hard, I’ve been in this sport for 17 years and I want to get my chance.”
Given that Usyk has only fought once each calendar year since 2019, it’s possible that Usyk vs. Fury may never happen as Usyk will turn 37 in January.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can catch the action on Saturday night in Poland before getting to a prediction and pick on the main event below.
Fight card, odds
- Oleksandr Usyk (c) -1200 vs. Daniel Dubois +750, WBA, WBO, IBF heavyweight titles
Date: Aug. 26 | Start time: 5 p.m. ET
Location: Tarczyński Arena Wrocław — Wroclaw, Poland
TV channel: ESPN+
Dubois has a solid jab and good power in his right hand. That can be enough for any heavyweight to win a fight. Heavyweight is, by its nature, a chaotic division where a single punch can change everything and Dubois has the right kind of weapon in his right hand to catch anyone and finish a fight.
That said, Dubois’ knee betrayed him in his most recent outing and his eye has been prone to damage since the Joyce fight. Usyk is slick, talented and very good at making in-fight adjustments, as he displayed in both Joshua fights, but especially the rematch. Dubois isn’t going to outbox Usyk over 12 rounds and likely needs to find a fight-changing punch early or Usyk will pull away quickly on the scorecards.
While Dubois has only gone the distance once in his professional career, it’s unlikely Usyk gives him a chance to mix it up and find a finish and equally unlikely that Usyk will risk big exchanges that get him the finish. Pick: Usyk via UD