Briton Daniel Dubois said he felt “cheated out of victory” after his heavyweight world-title challenge ended in defeat by Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk on a dramatic night in front of 40,000 boisterous fans in Poland.
Dubois, a huge underdog, floored the champion in a controversial fifth round. With Usyk wincing in pain on the canvas, the referee ruled the shot – which appeared to land on the belt line – a low blow.
Usyk, 36, regained control and dropped Dubois, 25, with a flurry of shots in the eighth round at Tarczynski Arena, Wroclaw, before the referee halted the contest following another knockdown in the ninth.
“I didn’t think that was a low blow, I thought it landed,” Dubois said after the fight.
His promoter Frank Warren agreed, calling it a “complete home decision” as he criticised referee Luis Pabon and said he planned to appeal.
“I like Usyk, but he was not fit to go on and they gave him a couple of minutes to recover,” added Warren.
In fact, Usyk took three minutes and 45 seconds before declaring he was fit to resume – fighters are allowed five minutes when caught with a low blow, although Dubois was not deducted a point by the referee.
Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, responded well towards the end of the fifth round and reasserted his dominance in rounds seven and eight as he made a successful second defence of his WBA ‘Super’, IBF and WBO belts.
He also retained his undefeated record, winning a 21st professional bout, to keep hopes of a blockbuster fight with Tyson Fury alive.
“I’m ready to fight Tyson Fury,” Usyk said.
“I feel good. I am grateful for my team, my family, my children. I love you. I’m grateful for my country and the Ukrainian army. Thank you so much.”
Briton Fury – the WBC world champion – and Usyk have previously failed to agree terms on a historic bout for all four heavyweight belts.