Oleksandr Usyk was all too amused by the storylines leading into his fight against Daniel Dubois.
Among them, one centered on the fact that Dubois’s trainer was none other than James Ali Bashir, who used to train Usyk for about three years in the professional ranks. Pre-fight narratives dictated that Bashir would reveal weaknesses in Usyk that Dubois could then take advantage of.
In the end, whatever Bashir was able to impart to Dubois was not enough, with Usyk, 36, stopping the 25-year-old Londoner in nine rounds in Wroclaw, Poland, last Saturday night to hold onto his WBO, WBA, IBF, and IBO titles.
Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs), however, had to overcome a shaky moment in the fifth round, when Dubois dropped Usyk with a right hand to the body. Referee Luis Pabon, however, deemed the shot a low blow and allowed Usyk to take his time to recover, which prompted widespread controversy.
After the fight, Usyk said he always felt the notion that Bashir’s involvement with Dubois was overrated. The Ukrainian added that despite training under Bashir for several years, the former protege of legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward never really knew him as a person.
“James Ali Basher is a great person,” Usyk told SecondsOut. "He’s a famous person. He’s a good man. But he wouldn’t teach Dubois any secrets because he knows none of them. Though we worked together for long time, he couldn’t [teach] me [anything personally].
“He didn’t know me [personally]. That’s why he couldn’t tell that corner any secrets that I have because he just doesn’t know them. I will tell you the person who knows me real, who knows me like I am. I wouldn’t tell you it’s my mom, but it’s my wife. She knows who I am.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.