Heavyweights. Nothing demands attention like a heavyweight fight. Boxing bristles when the big men climb the steps to the squared circle, the air becomes charged, beer and handbags are put down, heads are turned. A truth that has echoed through the sport’s history and will, when unbeaten British prospects Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman face off for the British title, be confirmed once more this weekend.
A prize with more than a century of memories and boasting a gallery of the great, game and infamous of British boxing as former holders, the belt has, nevertheless, laid dormant since Hughie Fury beat Sam Sexton in May 2018. The two fighters, Dubois and Gorman, represent the youngest pairing to ever contest the belt at just 21 and 23 respectively. Hopefully, the belt will be kept active by the victor and that sense of history cherished and extended.
It is rare for two unbeaten fighters to meet so early in their career. Only the clash between James DeGale and George Groves a decade ago leaps to mind when searching for a comparable match up. Supported by the equally intriguing clash between Joe Joyce and Philadelphian contender Bryant Jennings, the O2 plays host to a bonanza of heavyweight action ESPN+ will televise in America and BT Sport will cover for boxing devotees here in the UK.
Top bookmakers are offering markets on this enticing contest too.
Both Dubois and Gorman are managed and promoted by the venerable Frank Warren, a man wise enough to recognise the potential for this fight to have been more financially lucrative in 2020 rather than now. Speaking to the BBC this week Warren conceded he would have preferred the fight to mature:
“I said, ‘Let’s do it later.’ I’d have much rather done it at the end of the year or early next year but I couldn’t get either of them to pull out. So that was the problem. So that’s where we are. We’ve got the fight, it’s a great fight. They’re both good quality fighters, they can both punch, so it should be quite exciting. There will be a winner and a loser, but even then, it’s not the end of the world for whoever loses.”
Dubois Backed by the Bookies
Despite his tender years and shorter career, Dubois is favoured to win at 5/8 with Ladbrokes. The taller man with the more potent single punch power, consensus proposes Dubois will be too heavy-handed for Gorman and be able to pierce the Nantwich man’s defence. I’m not convinced by the theory. Gorman has smoother footwork and is adept at manoeuvring around an opponent, creating different angles and opportunities for his faster hands.
A fighter with both a genetic and cultural affinity with the sport; he is a cousin to Tyson and Hughie Fury and the great-nephew of Bartley Gorman, once King of the Gypsies himself, the Nantwich man has demonstrated good instincts in his 16-fight career. Trained by light-welterweight legend Ricky Hatton, Gorman’s ability is neither ratified or implied by his physique. Despite the unflinching dedication to his life as a prizefighter, he will never be a star for the Instagram age. But he can fight, and I believe there is value in proposing he can box, score and negotiate the early rounds when it could be assumed Dubois is most dangerous with his right cross, and in doing so, in taking Dubois in to the second half of the contest, find a path to victory.
If Gorman can acclimatise to the Dubois power, and they have sparred several times before as novice members of the GB Amateur camp in Sheffield, he presents challenges to the Londoner his brief career may not have prepared him for. A distance fight with an ambitious and capable opponent. I like the potential return on a studious and confident Gorman performance, fighting cautiously, boxing around Dubois’ jab in the opening rounds, scoring to the body and outlasting his less instinctive opponent. Coral offer 8-1 on Gorman winning between rounds 7 and 12.
Whilst Hatton was piranha-like in fighting style during his own career, he is a flexible trainer, and therefore unlikely to encourage Gorman to gamble on capitalising where the wild Richard Lartey fleetingly succeeded in Dubois’ last performance.
I don’t foresee Gorman forcing the pace unduly in the opening rounds and would presume there will be posturing behind the jab as they both adapt to the pressure of being the main attraction and digest the magnitude of what could lay beyond the fight for the victor.
My sense is Gorman is best qualified to succeed – priced at 6/4 with Bethard – despite the opinions of the leading bookmakers.