By Oscar Pick

THE element of surprise was somewhat lost with the announcement that Anthony Joshua will face Daniel Dubois at Wembley Stadium on September 21.

In a sense, Wednesday’s press conference merely confirmed what everyone had already suspected – that the pair will headline a Riyadh Season event for Dubois’ IBF world heavyweight title (that was swiftly elevated from interim to full version just in time).

Beyond the initial trinket, though, this is an opportunity for Joshua to get payback on his domestic rival, who claims to have dropped the 34-year-old in sparring.

The rumour spread like wildfire in 2017, when Frank Warren signed Dubois, who was just 18 years old at the time.

Clearly, a lot has changed since then, with the two Brits showing significant signs of improvement in recent performances. 

What is more, the stakes for their post-summer sizzler are tremendously high, as the winner is set to place himself next in line for an undisputed showdown.

Until the IBF twist, all four belts were occupied by Oleksandr Usyk following his sensational victory over Tyson Fury last month. 

However, with a rematch earmarked for later this year, there could be an all-British heavyweight title dust-up to look forward to.

But first, before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s consider the keys to victory for Joshua and Dubois, who both look to remove any doubt that they are the rightful contender for Usyk’s crown.

Anthony Joshua’s keys to victory

Control the range with his jab

Since linking up with trainer Ben Davison, Joshua has developed a more authoritative jab that he uses to tee up his thudding right hand. Against Dubois, he will no doubt look to establish this weapon from the opening round, avoiding any mid-to-short-range exchanges – that is until he has found his rhythm by boxing on the outside. 

With his jab firing, Joshua can command more control over the distance from which he launches his attacks. Varying the range, as and when it suits him, will leave Dubois second guessing whether or not he is out of harm’s way, giving Joshua plenty of openings to step inside where he can land hooks and uppercuts. 

Anthony Joshua speaks to his head coach Ben Davison during the media workout ahead of facing Otto Wallin on December 23 in Riyadh (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Utilise his footwork 

Another aspect of Joshua’s game, which has led to him becoming a more complete fighter, is his footwork. His superior mobility was showcased against Otto Wallin last December when, before scoring a fifth-round stoppage victory, the two-time world heavyweight champion created angles to not only land his shots but also find exits out of the pocket.

With Dubois, at times, demonstrating less of an impetus to shift his feet out of range – a weakness that Usyk exposed in the ninth round of their contest last year – Joshua is likely to be presented ample opportunities to pivot around his more static opponent, stepping from left to right while landing hurtful counters.

Claim the centre of the ring 

Spatial awareness should always be a key part of any fighter’s game plan but, for Joshua, it is absolutely central to his style. Knowing that he can take a few steps back without being pressed up against the ropes is ultimately what will inspire confidence when carrying out his tactics. 

For his jab and footwork to be effective, Joshua needs time, but more importantly, space, to set traps for his opponent. Otherwise, if he is forced onto the back foot – with his movement around the ring severely limited –  then any physical advantages over Dubois might as well just be stats on a page.

Daniel Dubois’ keys to victory

Disrupt Joshua’s rhythm

Coming up against a more experienced operator, who has added several new strings to his bow, is never an easy task. For Dubois to get a foothold in this fight, he must unleash his explosive flurries during perceived periods of inactivity, preventing Joshua from establishing his flow. 

There are often telltale signs for when a fighter is about to throw a shot; they will reveal an idiosyncratic behaviour of sorts – perhaps by wiping their nose or tapping their shorts – before initiating an exchange. If he is able to identify Joshua’s idiosyncrasies, Dubois can then capitalise on them by timing his attacks accordingly. 

Be first to the punch

By being first to the punch, Dubois will avoid falling victim to any traps set by Joshua. The former WBA ‘regular’ champion was mindful of this in his last fight against Filip Hrgovic, who he was able to land cleanly on by leading with a variety of shots. 

However, against Joshua, someone with a higher boxing IQ, Dubois will need to be more measured in his approach. When putting his tactics into action, it is important for him to throw plenty of feints so that, after drawing out a lead from Joshua, he can then respond with more impactful counters.

Maintain his mental resolve 

After being labelled a quitter following his tenth-round stoppage defeat to Joe Joyce in 2020, Dubois has proven that he does, in fact, have the ability to dig deep in fights. In his last two performances – against Jarrell Miller and Hrgovic – he illustrated an unwavering winners’ mentality by weathering some torrid moments before producing an emphatic finish on both occasions. 

This is where Don Charles and Kieran Farrell – his newly-formed training team – have made the most notable difference. By providing clear instructions and, when necessary, a polite kick up the backside, Dubois’ corner will be instrumental for when he faces Joshua who, judging by his recent outings, may look to end the fight inside the distance. 

Daniel Dubois breaks the will of Jarrell Miller during their heavyweight fight at Kingdom Arena on December 23, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here