By Alan Hubbard
Simon Cowell keeps telling us that Britain’s Got Talent. Indeed it has, but it is not confined to showbiz. British boxing has talent too and bundles of it. You might say the game here has never had it so good in terms of quality among young prospects.
This was evidenced at Frank Warren’s Royal Albert Hall show last Saturday night when the line-up of potential stars of the future was quite breathtaking. From 22-year-old heavyweight sensation Daniel Dubois through to the most exciting young prospect among the smaller weight divisions I’ve seen for years, bantamweight Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann. He is just 18 and is shaping up with the same zest and cheeky flamboyance that made Naseem Hamed a superstar.
We also witnessed more of Warren’s wunderkind in Archie Sharp, Willy Hutchinson, Denzel Bentley, Muhammad Bilal Ali, Sam Noakes, Jonathan Palata, Eithan James and Lewis Edmonson. It is a stable brimming with ability. So many in fact that Frank and his matchmakers have their work cut out to accommodate them all with regular fights.
I hear that youngsters are now flooding into the game both amateur and professional level, pro rata more than most other sports, no doubt spurred on by the thought of getting away from the street gang syndrome and seeking a sport that teaches them discipline and sportsmanship. When do you ever see two combatants who have tried to belt bits of each other fail to embrace at the end of a contest like long last brothers?.
That’s what boxing is about.
Currently leading this flourishing field of dreams of course is the phenomenal Daniel Dubois.
He may sound like a French pop singer but there is only one hit parade that he aims to top. The heavyweight championship of the world.
Dynamite Dan, one of 11 children from Greenwich in south east London stands 6ft 5in, weighs some 17st and already has the British and Commonwealth championship belts, among others, wrapped around his waist.
Good judges reckon he is the hardest punching heavyweight the sport has seen for many years, something he demonstrated in just two minutes last weekend when blasting out the Ghanaian Ebenezer Tetteh with his 12th ko to acquire the Commonwealth crown at the packed Royal Albert Hall.
Next Monday Dubois will be honoured by the Boxing Writers Club having been overwhelmingly voted as Britain’s best young boxer of the year. He is the first heavyweight since 1983 to do so and only one of three heavyweights to win it in the 68 years of the award.
Just how good is he? He takes me back to the sixties when Sonny Liston, stony faced with a phenomenal left jab and thunderclap right hand, terrified the heavyweight world before a young man then called Cassius Clay psyched him out.
Dubois, has all the Liston attributes but hopefully a bigger heart should he ever face adversity. He certainly seems the real deal.
Daniel, whose family name is inherited from the slave trade days in America where ancestors toiled for a slave owner named Dubois, is, like Liston, the strong, silent type. His is the gift of the jab rather than the gab. The power in his punches speaks volumes.
There aren’t really any serious domestic challengers easily available for Dubois, although there is talk of a big money bout with his stablemate Joe Joyce, the Rio Olympic silver medal winner and similarly unbeaten as a pro. Joyce, now 33, is a capable fighter but maybe not capable enough defensively to keep his chin out of the way of that wrecking-ball right more than four or five rounds. Neither is former champ David Price.
The impressive if impassive Dubois is arguably currently the biggest hit in British boxing. And there is certainly no doubt that he is the biggest hitter, the most heavy-handed home-grown heavy since Frank Bruno. The gymnasium grapevine has it that he has flattened Olympic and newly-deposed world champion Anthony Joshua in sparring and that he has put another spar-mate in hospital.
It could well be that Dubois will soon be ranked high among the sport’s punching powerhouses – and world champion within two years.
As one of 11 kids are there any more at him?? Oh yes there are. Indeed, the name Dubois could be on everyone’s lips for another reason, too this time next year. For Daniel’s 18-year-old little sister Caroline is a brilliant boxer too. “I am tempted to say she is the best I female fighter I‘ve ever seen” says to the eminently knowledgeable BBC commentator Mike Costello.
And BBC and BT’s ace analyst Steve Bunce, whose judgement is also much respected reckons: ”She might just be the best female boxer you’ve seen but there is a case that at just 18 years of age she might just be the best female athlete in the world, in any sport. “
Currently the Youth Olympic champion, world youth lightweight champion, and three times European junior champion, and unbeaten in 35 contests, long-armed, languid southpaw Caroline is well on course for Olympic gold in Tokyo next year – if selected as she has yet to box as a senior. She surely is a must for Team GB as she is clearly is the best British female boxer since Nicola Adams.
Sweet Caroline has certainly come a long way since pretending to be a nine-year-old boy called Colin just to workout at a boxing club as a child. “She is a much more natural fighter than me,” says her big brother while Peacock Gym coach Martin Bowers reckons she is one of the best fighters he has ever seen – “and that’s not female fighters, just fighters.”
THESE ARE SAD for we scribblers – and boxing. Recently we have lost two of what used to be Fleet Street’s finest sports journalists; the eloquent Welshman Ken Jones, an ex-footballer turned brilliant wordsmith who wrote with such passion and clarity first for the Daily Mirror and latterly as a columnist for the Independent on football, boxing and Olympics and another erudite and gifted sportswriter Neil Allen, who opined on boxing and athletics initially for The Times and subsequently the London Evening Standard. Both passed away after long illnesses, Ken aged 87 and Neil 86. Neil’s funeral is next Thursday at West Norwood Crematorium (11.45am) and Ken’s at Beckenham Crematorium on Tuesday 22 October (11.45am). Their presence both in print and press boxes is sorely missed.
OK, SO I got it wrong when I predicted that Josh Warrington would be named Britain’s fighter of the year at the British Boxing Board of Control annual awards dinner last week. It appears he lost out on a split decision to Callum Smith. Many, including myself believe he should’ve won but that disappointment he can be mollified as his contest with Carl Frampton was justly named fight of the year. That was some scrap and fans can expect similar edge-of-seat action when Josh he makes the third defence of his IBF world featherweight title against the Frenchman Sofiane Takoucht at hometown Leeds First Arena, screened live by BT on Saturday week.
The supporting bill proves my point about the abundance pf young talent, with another fistful of Queensberry’s wannabes on show.