Daniel Dubois had no thoughts about working his way back gently when he started sparring again in April. Having suffered eye damage when losing his unbeaten record to Joe Joyce in November, he went in as a sparring partner to Derek Chisora and Johnny Fisher when he stepped between the ropes again. It felt like he had never been away.
“I didn’t even think about the eye,” Dubois said. “Just back to normal for me. The eye is ready to go and ready to be punched up again. It is healed and I believe it is stronger now than before.
“It has toughened me up and now I am ready to fight again.”
Dubois returns to action in Telford on Saturday when he faces Romania’s Bogdan Dinu. For what it is worth, the WBA’s interim heavyweight title will be on the line, courtesy of Dinu’s completely baffling No 2 ranking with the WBA and that organization's belief that they can’t have enough world champions. More importantly it is a return for Dubois at a decent level and a chance to show that the defeat to Joyce did not break him.
The 23-year-old suffered damaged to his orbital bone and cornea when he faced Joe Joyce for the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles in November. He boxed on for six rounds with the injury before taking a knee in the tenth round after Joyce landed a punch smack on the eye.
It led to some labelling Dubois as “a quitter”, but Dubois dismisses such accusations.
“They don’t know what they are talking about, but some people had motives behind calling me that,” he said. “I’m not a quitter, I’m a real warrior and I’m here to fight again.
“If I really was a quitter, I would have packed it in after that fight and said goodbye to everything. I’m ready to move on.
“The toughest part of it was realizing I had lost the opportunities that would have been there. But I have been defeated before as an amateur and had to come back. So that in itself hasn’t crushed me or battered my confidence. If anything, it has made me stronger. I’m glad I can come again, and I am still here ready to go.”
There have been changes, though, as Dubois split with his trainer Martin Bowers and, after initially agreeing to work with Mark Tibbs, he ended up in Shane McGuigan’s growing camp.
“I needed a fresh start after the defeat to Joe,” he said. “It’s a different outlook, that’s the thinking behind it.”
But in some ways, stepping into a fight for an interim WBA title, shows that not much momentum has been lost in his career, when some might be looking for some confidence-building knockovers. While Joyce waits to see if he will fight Oleksandr Usyk for the vacant WBO title – which now seems unlikely – Dubois could end up facing Joyce again sooner than some might think.
“I don’t think I should take a step back,” he said. “I’ve had enough easy fights, I’ve had enough learning fights. What’s the point of taking a step back now? I’ve either got it or I don’t and I’m out to show that I have what it takes to reach the highest level and being in big fights that people really care about.
“[A Joyce fight] could be built up again and this time make it really epic and bigger than the first time. Whatever happens, it will turn out all right.”
The important thing now is that Dubois puts into practice the lesson he was given by Joyce. He is still very young in heavyweight terms, there should be no rush.
“I learnt from that,” he said. “I have to time my attacks better, set up my attacks better. I threw a lot of heavy shots, but they were missing and my jab was falling short too. My job right now is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I’ve had a look at [Dinu]. He is decent. He might not do anything great, but he does everything well. This is his opportunity, so he is going to bring a hunger and determination that I really look forward to being up against. That challenge in front of me will only make me fight harder.
“It was good to have some time out, to look back and reflect and to slow things down a bit. Boxing is like a train, it doesn’t stop moving for anyone. That’s a lesson I have learnt. You have to stay on the wagon as long as you can until you have done everything you need to. I haven’t got anywhere near that yet. I’m still at the start of my career.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.