“I genuinely believe that my man will win,” said Frank Warren from the top table of Thursday’s press conference in London to discuss Oleksandr Usyk-Daniel Dubois. “I genuinely believe that.
“As much as I believed, when Danny Williams went to the States to fight Mike Tyson and beat him. And he’s a better fighter than Danny Williams.
“Nas, went he went to The Garden against Kevin Kelley – they all thought [Kelley] was going to do the business. I knew he was going to do it and he did it. When Joe Calzaghe fought against Jeff Lacy too.
“This is a moment in time. This is going to happen. I’m telling you. This is going to be a great fight – while it lasts.”
Warren’s track record in delivering high-profile opponents at the correct time for fighters considered underdogs demands that when he speaks with such conviction he ultimately demands attention.
Ricky Hatton’s victory over Kostya Tszyu is another he’d have been entitled to mention – one even more relevant than the night Naseem Hamed defeated Kevin Kelley – but the benefit of hindsight shows, as it did the night he orchestrated Josh Warrington’s career-changing victory over Lee Selby, that circumstances were on Hamed’s, Williams’ and Calzaghe’s sides.
When in 2017 Warren invested to bring Gervonta Davis to London to fight Liam Walsh he partly did so because he was similarly confident in Walsh’s chances of victory. The years since have demonstrated that Davis is an elite fighter beyond Walsh’s capabilities, but there was a time when Warren, perhaps also determined to deliver the highest calibre of fighter for his then-new platform of BT Sport, in the build-up to Davis-Walsh had Hatton-Tzsyu and more in mind.
For all that he spoke with conviction on the side of Dubois, it is not unthinkable that he was partly doing so through the prism of also being Tyson Fury’s promoter. Warren justifiably considers Fury a strong favourite in the context of the proposed fight between them it is to be hoped will still happen; the advantages that exist for Fury over Usyk are regardless significantly less applicable to Dubois.
If Warren knows a winnable fight for one of his fighters – and it has been tempting, in the aftermath of Dubois’ defeat by Joe Joyce and the emergence of Moses Itauma, to consider whether he is as convinced by someone who remains one of the world’s most promising heavyweights – he also recognises opportunities that shouldn’t be resisted. When Anthony Yarde travelled to Russia to challenge Sergey Kovalev in 2019 he did so not as the favourite but because victory would have represented a bonus on an evening when, as so unenviable an underdog, his development, profile and reputation was likely to be enhanced. Four years on Dubois, an even bigger underdog, is travelling to Poland to fight the finest active fighter of them all.
Also alongside Warren in London were the heavyweight and his new trainer Don Charles, who both arrived an hour late having travelled from his training camp in Granada, Spain. Without the services of Shane McGuigan – who in 2019 prepared Luke Campbell to challenge Vasyl Lomachenko and who had guided Dubois since the defeat by Joyce – Dubois is working under Charles for the first time.
“It’s our time,” Charles said to someone alongside him before speaking at the top table, and when he did so there was little doubting he believed what he said. Charles gave little away when Warren described Usyk’s former opponent Derek Chisora as someone who “always fights well enough to come second”, but if he is a less proven trainer than McGuigan, for the occasion of next month’s fight his apparently total belief in his new fighter may yet prove exactly what Dubois needs.
“You can hear in my voice – 20 years of passion [from my time in boxing], and God delivered this young man [Dubois is 25] here,” Charles said. “This is a soldier that is going to cross the line to go to the promised land. You can hear in my voice I’m trembling – I cannot wait.”
Sat on the other side of Usyk, his promoter Alex Krassyuk and his manager Egis Klimas, was, unexpectedly, none other than Naseem Hamed. His 23-year-old son Addam will make his debut in a fight being described as the “co-main event” (there’s rarely ever any such thing – just the main event and the undercard) at the Tarczynski Arena in Wroclaw.
Hamed later spoke of his desire to keep his distance from his son’s career, and while 21 years have passed since he fought his charisma remains intact. “Timing’s everything, baby,” he interjected when Warren was making his case for Dubois, enjoying himself and immediately becoming the centre of attention as he so often was in his prime with an ease so rarely seen since.
That he has proven so underwhelming a fight pundit means that his takes on the main event – he responded to Dubois with “I like that, baby – fighting talk” – will rarely seem relevant. More worthy of acknowledgment is the fact that he not only remains so natural a showman that he adjusted accordingly when he noticed photographers attempting to capture he and his handsome son together, while he did so he continued to speak with such clarity it can be concluded he is not about to start struggling with CTE.
Throughout, Usyk – logically for a 36-year-old fighter who has visited the frontline of his country’s attempts to defend themselves from the invasion of Russia – couldn’t have been more consistently composed. Dubois’ dimensions seemed more significant when they were close to each other; the reality, regardless, is that when they came face to face he presented the Ukrainian with little he hasn’t already seen.