“Has there been bad blood?” Daniel Dubois is asked.

“Yeah, there’s been talks. It’s a fight isn’t it?” the heavyweight contender replied.

Opponent Filip Hrgovic is favorite ahead of their fight in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, tipped to repeat the beating he apparently dished out to Dubois in sparring several years ago.

Exactly what happened behind closed doors has not been revealed. Hrgovic has mentioned hospital, Dubois said it was hard for both of them. Roughly translated, it was far harder for Dubois than the Croat and while you can’t read too much into sparring, it could be daunting for a young man who was around 19 at the time to face his tormenter years on, knowing Hrgovic is expected to win and the one fancied to push on for IBF title honors.

“For me, it’s just another fight,” Dubois explained. “I don’t know about the bookies and all that, but it’s another fight. I’m raring to go.”

Hostility has simmered between the pair through the build-up, from when the fight was announced stories of sparring began to emerge.  

“He’s had a lot to say, hasn’t he?” Dubois added. “He’s been making fun of me and all that, but let’s see who’s making fun of who on Saturday. I’m ready to fight. It’s a day at work. Let’s go.”

As he’s pressed, about the psychology of what happened in the past, Dubois swipes the topic to one side. He’s engaged and not rude, but he claims he will be a different beast when he faces “El Animal” tonight.

“I’m not even looking into that,” Dubois continued. “He ain’t done nothing against me. I recall the spar. It was a tough spar for both of us. It was a good spar. Two top level contenders. You know what you’re going to get. Now it’s a fight, and all the talking and what happened in the past doesn’t matter. 

“I’ve not even got that in my meditation now. The spar was the spar and they were what they were. I was young, they were good hard spars for me and for him. He will tell you that himself if he’s honest, but we’ll see. I’m ready for a fight on Saturday. He ain’t riling me up. He’s just another guy who thinks he’s rated [highly] or whatever. But who’s he fought that’s a tough, athletic, young contender, like me? He’s not fought no one like me, and you guys are going to see on Saturday.” 

Hrgovic, a 2016 Olympic medallist, is five years older at 31. He’s unbeaten at 17-0 with 14 stoppages. This week, he’s carried a knowing smirk but Dubois passed a gut check against Jarrell Miller last time and that has added to a self-belief that plenty have questioned.

He stopped Miller in the closing moments of the fight having endured some tricky moments in the early-mid rounds.

“Good confidence,” Dubois said of what he took from beating the big mouth New Yorker. “I can carry the power late and show I can do the 10 rounds and get stronger as I go on, and that’s what I want to do and do better in this one than with Miller.”

Despite having more pro fights than Hrgovic, Dubois thinks that his opponent’s best days are in the past and he reckons he could not have prepared any better for his old sparmate.

“He’s another fighter to me right now. Who is he? He’s another fighter,” Dubois said.

“I’ve had some good fighters, some good sparring, some fighters in sparring that are better than him. I’m prepared for it. His best days were in the amateurs. One of those guys, their best days are in the amateurs, the tournaments, the Olympics, the WSB and all that. I feel like they were his best days. 

“We will see how much I’ve grown. I feel like I’ve come on leaps and bounds and after the last [Miller] fight and onto this one, I’m ready for the top level. I’m ready for the top guys.”

The IBF are calling it an interim title fight, with the winner possibly meeting Anthony Joshua in September in Wembley. By Dubois’ own admission earlier this week, “it’s a bit late to be putting a world title on the line” with speculation that the IBF would strip Usyk and make Hrgovic-Dubois for the full title.

Asked whether he felt it was for the greater good of the sport that Usyk retained his undisputed mantle, Dubois added: “I don’t know. I want to win the world title. Yeah, that’d be cool. That would be fun. But I’m in big fights right now, these could be world title fights in my opinion, these are big enough. I don’t know what’s going on with the titles and the belts and the politics and whatnot.”

The Englishman is also interested in the other heavyweight clash on the bill, which sees Zhilei Zhang and Deontay Wilder collide in the nominal main event of the Riyadh 5 v 5 bill. 

“Yeah, it’s a good fight, Wilder and Zhang,” Dubois stated. “I think it’s an interesting fight. Both guys a little bit past their prime, but it’s a good fight. You’ll see who lands first. I don’t know really. May the best man win. They’re both coming off defeats but it’s a good fight, both punchers.”

Another puncher is Joshua. Dubois-Joshua for the vacant IBF title at Wembley Stadium certainly sounds good to the 26-year-old, who is often softly spoken but in the build-up to this bitter clash with Hrgovic has called his opponent a c*** and at the weigh in yesterday insisted, “I’m not here to fuck around.” 

“It’s huge isn’t it? It’s massive,” he said of possibly fighting AJ. “Two British fighters, fighting like that. That’s history right there. That’s amazing. Frank Warren, the best promoter in the world, he’d love that, and so I’ve got to go out there and do it.

“He [Joshua]’s another fighter that’s done really well, hasn’t he, and his last couple of performances he’s looked good. That will be amazing. That fight will be huge.”

Dubois would like a return with Usyk down the line. He felt the Ukrainian boxed with more caution against him than he did recently with Tyson Fury and said that, too, had given him confidence. 

Joshua is another fighter with whom Dubois has sparring history, with rumours swirling years ago that he’d put Joshua over in the gym.  

“That’s the past now, leave it in the past,” Dubois chuckled. “Or we will bring it back up later. “Let’s get through Saturday first.”