Joe Joyce landed a big upset and took a huge step towards a world heavyweight title shot by stopping Daniel Dubois in a captivating contest in London.
Joyce, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist, used his jab expertly to build telling damage over Dubois’ eye.
Dubois landed his own fine work but was distressed by his eye between rounds.
And with the bout in the balance, a simple jab from Joyce prompted Dubois to pause before taking a knee in round 10 when he failed to beat the count.
‘I couldn’t see’
The surreal finish at Westminster’s Church House underlined the discomfort Dubois had dealt with for around half the fight and, without question, Joyce must be praised for soaking up punches in a display where he was as disciplined as he was accurate.
Dubois – who was quickly taken to hospital for a check on his eye – told BT Sport: “He caught me with a good jab – I couldn’t see out of the eye. It just happens.”
But former world champion Carl Frampton and ex-British champion Matt Macklin said 23-year-old Dubois “quit”.
His body language between rounds was a stark contrast to that seen when he breezed through his first 15 professional contests and while he was leading on two of the three cards at the stoppage, he never looked capable of finding the kind of rhythm that would offer him control of the contest.
Joyce, 35, remains undefeated and walks away with the British, Commonwealth and European titles. More significantly, he came through a high-risk fight and will eye world honours while Dubois goes through a short-term rebuild.
“I’m ready for Oleksandr Usyk”, said Joyce, a 2016 Olympic silver medallist.
“Daniel has got some power but I’ve felt power like that before. With my experience I’ve learnt to ride them.”
‘You’re in the fight game now’
Blessed with an engine that defies his 6ft 6in frame and the kind of agility that saw him perform acrobatics in the ring after his win, Joyce brings an obscure mix to the division’s top table.
The speed of his shots appear limited but his deep amateur experience offered key poise here and he has shown – not for the first time – that his punches carry enough weight to wear rivals down blow by blow.
He backed and trusted his jab, flicking it constantly to fend off the heavy attacks Dubois is known for. When Dubois did land hard – three right hands in round two and a left hook in the third – Joyce stood when past opponents crumpled.
“This is the fight game now, you’re in it,” Dubois was warned by his corner as he began to look distressed between rounds.
He needed to show grit we had not seen from him before and duly found a sweetly timed right hand in the seventh. He was ahead on two of the three scorecards going into the 10th but refused to go on when yet another Joyce jab landed on the swollen eye.
Around 20,000 fans would have watched the pair scrap out a defining moment in their careers had the contest not been postponed three times during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is Joyce who can now seek raucous nights, bigger pay days and potential world glory.
Dubois will need to heal and come again.
‘An underdog and a mountain to climb’ – analysis
BBC Sport boxing correspondent Mike Costello:
The year of the heavyweight underdog. Tyson Fury, Alexander Povetkin and Joe Joyce have all started second-favourite in their big fights and left the ring the winner.
Going into the fight, it was felt that the jab of Dubois would be key and Joyce’s lack of head movement an issue. In the event, the reverse was true. Dubois ate the left jab from the start and seemed incapable of avoiding the trouble which eventually caused his left eye to close.
We’ve seen so often in the past how a heavyweight’s power carries less pop as he moves up in class – and Dubois’ aura of fear has waned. And because of the manner of the finish, future opponents will be encouraged by his readiness to take a knee. At 23, he has scope to improve but he now has a psychological mountain to climb.
As for Joyce, his predictability is likely to be exploited by the likes of Fury and Joshua but his work rate and resilience will make him competitive. At the highest level, though, he needs more.
Joyce’s chin and did Dubois quit? – reaction
Former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton to BT Sport: I think Dubois quit, I have to be brutally honest. His eye was closed, but I’d get dragged out of the ring, I wouldn’t take a knee.
Former British middleweight champion Matt Macklin: Well done to Joe Joyce, just walked through anything Dubois hit him with. There’s no nice way to say this but Dubois quit. Got hit with a clean jab on a damaged eye and sat it out. He’s young but if you’ve got the quit in you then it’s always going to be be a doubt over him.
Former world light-middleweight champion Liam Smith: Didn’t half enjoy that fight, Joyce’s chin in ridiculous. Thought Dubois boxed a great fight too. But I find it hard to think he did not quit. When you watch a ref count to 10 while on one knee, you chose to stay down. Hope he comes again but questions will always be asked of that.
Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis: Congrats to Joe Joyce on a big win. The amateur pedigree can make all the difference in the world. Daniel Dubois hold your head up and learn from this. Definitely not the end.