Daniel Dubois forever ditched his mental demons Saturday night when he beat up Filip Hrgovic in eight brutal rounds. It caps an incredible turnaround for the 26-year-old who was written off as a quitter earlier in his career.

Even though Dubois, 21-2 (20 KOs), had proved himself to a degree with victory over Jarrell Miller in December, surviving a minor crisis in the middle rounds to power through the fleshy fringe contender in the 10th round, the doubts continued to rage. 

The root of that uncertainty – the 2020 capitulation at the hands of Joe Joyce – only grew further with the apparent surrender against Oleksandr Usyk last August. Throw in the wobble he endured against the unheralded Kevin Lerena in the interim, and it’s obvious why Hrgovic, who supposedly bashed up a then-19-year-old Dubois in an old sparring session, was always expected to win.

Yet there were suggestions that Hrgovic, now 31, had gone stale in the professional ranks and the promise that accompanied his arrival into professional boxing was destined to be broken.

In the build-up, Dubois’ hackles often raised when being constantly reminded of his past mistakes. And whether fighting angry, confidently or simply out of his mind, the Londoner answered the first bell looking for the knockout and, in the process, swallowed right hand after right hand. Hrgovic couldn’t miss, but Dubois refused to take a step back while landing plenty of his own.

“I ate those shots and they just woke me up,” Dubois reflected. “Then I was on it. It was like, ‘Don’t wait, don’t wait.’”

The pair continued to exchange in Round 2. Croatia's Hrgovic, 17-1 (14 KOs), seemed to be getting better of things until the last minute, when Dubois invited his jab to the party. At the end of the sessio,n it was Hrgovic – cut from a right hand – who looked stunned.

Dubois continued to march forward, and his nonchalance when taking punches was a curious sight. Hrgovic, though landing more, could not quieten his opponent, and Dubois merely grew stronger.

In fact, one was left to wonder exactly what went down in those sparring sessions all those years ago, such was Dubois’ maniacal approach. His forward motion combined with the hurling of clumping, hurtful blows to the head left Hrgovic bedraggled in the fifth. But for every blow that Dubois landed, he was taking more in return, and not once did he buckle. There was a sense of destiny about his work, a feeling that he simply could not be beaten.

The confidence inside the underdog continued to surge in the sixth. Then along came Round 7 and Dubois was suddenly landing brutal shots for fun. The skin seemed to be peeling off Hrgovic’s skull as the wounds gaped and the blood flowed. Now it was the pre-fight favorite being forced to take punch after punch, each one landing like an axe in a tree.

The fall seemed inevitable, but Hrgovic resisted, calling on his fighting instincts. The end came in Round 8 with Dubois in full flow, this man possessed simply unstoppable. The referee called in the doctor and the fight was stopped. 

It was the performance of the night so far by some distance. 

“I come from rock bottom and now I’m back on top,” Dubois said. 

“I’ve heard the next opponent is Anthony Joshua – bring it on. This is my time.”

The IBF "interim" heavyweight title was on the line merely two weeks after Oleksandr Usyk defended the full fat version of the strap when he decisioned Tyson Fury in a historic battle for all the belts. The sanctioning body is yet to decide on Usyk’s request to push back his mandatory defense in favor of rematching Fury on Dec. 21.