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Daniel Dubois doesn’t dabble in drink, drugs or girls as he’s determined to be a heavyweight great

There are hidden depths to the next world heavyweight champion, so it is appropriate that he should give his first profound interview beside the swimming pool of his family’s new home.

This Adonis rises from half a dozen surging laps in the sun-dappled water to mention: ‘There was some thought when I was young that I could become an Olympic swimmer. But boxing was always my No 1 sport.’

It is in the gated seclusion of this impressive seven-figure, seven-bedroom estate in rural Essex that Daniel Dubois feels comfortable opening up about not only boxing but his monastic lifestyle and the complex politics now swirling around every black sporting celebrity.

This 6ft 5in of explosive punching power nicknamed Dynamite is a marauding force of nature in the ring but has grown up sensibly more guarded of his opinions as well as private as a person.

Now, as he approaches his 23rd birthday next month, Dubois has achieved the maturity to express his views in careful context.

So no, nobody will stand in the way of this Dulwich-born prodigy assuming heavyweight supremacy. Not Tyson Fury. Not Anthony Joshua. Not Deontay Wilder. Dubois: ‘I simply know I beat them all whatever order they come.’

No, none of the social distractions which tempt red-blooded young men will divert him from his pathway to destiny. Young Daniel: ‘Never been to a bar. Never been to a club. Never had a drink. No regular girl.’

No, whatever the peer pressure, he will not be sucked into the controversies of race and activism which might deflect his concentration from what he sees as his life’s work and drain some of the energies needed to fulfil his ambitions.

Dubois deals with the latter, more contentious issue as adroitly as he is now flexing the mobile boxing skills which were hidden at first by his quick and concussive KOs.

‘No,’ he says. ‘I have not considered taking a knee before the start of my fights.’ As for Black Lives Matter, he pauses before saying: ‘All lives matter.’

Those principled statements are unlikely to endear him to Lewis Hamilton, who tries to encourage all his fellow Formula One drivers into kneeling prior to races.

But Dubois fleshes out his remarks by adding: ‘I don’t have to make statements for other people. I choose to make mine with my fists and charity begins at home. It is the lives of my family which come first for me. There is a long way to go to full equality for all. So I’m not being drawn yet into movements where I don’t know all the political background and don’t fully understand the implications.

‘Any impact for good I can make from the platform I have now will come from me winning the world heavyweight title. In a way which inspires young people everywhere to succeed and achieve their dreams. Whatever their colour or background.’

That wisdom has been imbued by his father Dave, with whom he purchased this February the house now occupied not only by both of them and Daniel’s boxing sister Caroline and brother Prince, but at times on and off his other eight siblings.

Dubois says: ‘My Dad is who I discuss everything with. We never stop talking. Mostly about boxing. But I trust his thoughts on all that’s going on around us. He’s a great peacemaker. He’s had to be as a single parent to so many of us.’

Father-son bonds tend to be viewed warily in sport, but this paternity is as healthy and productive as any to which I have been granted an insight down the decades. It helps that Dave brings to the table not only a quick mind but a lively sense of humour. A chuckle is never far away.

‘My father took me to a boxing gym when I was four,’ says the offspring who already holds the British, Commonwealth, WBC Silver and WBO International heavyweight titles. ‘The training he put me through became so tough. Incredibly hard. But my Dad knew what the reward could be. Not once did I think of walking away. I dedicated myself totally.’

Daniel was a pupil at the highly-rated Holland Park comprehensive in West London but he says: ‘I was no good at any lessons. Not interested in English or maths. Just sport. So I left school as young as I could. As soon as I was 15.’

His father oversaw his sporting development, including swimming at the Crystal Palace National Recreation Centre as a fall-back, and his successful but comparatively brief amateur career.

But when they decided he should turn professional instead of hang on with the UK Olympic squad, Dubois Snr entrusted the advent of his son’s championship future to highly-respected trainer Martin Bowers at the renowned Peacock Gym in East London.

The domestic relationship remains close and protective and although it is now Daniel making the family fortune, he says: ‘My father is still the patron of the family. He’s our guide. I’m glad I trusted him to give me everything I need for all that I intend to do.’

Dubois explains that source of total sporting commitment which is as all-consuming as anything in my reporting experience: ‘I have breakfast. Train for two hours at the gym. Come home. Eat again. Work out in our small gym at the house until about six.

‘Then we all hang out for the evening, chatting together. Not much television at all.

‘I have no other interests. No, as a man on a mission I don’t think I need any to round me out as a person. Not for some time anyway. Yeah, I look forward to maybe going to a club in the distant future. Girls? I’ve had my eye on one or two. But nothing regular for now. No distractions. I don’t have the risk of being dragged out for a night with the boys because my friends are my family. This house is perfect for keeping to ourselves.’

Central to the boxing conversation, as well as Dave and Prince who is on the foothills of his amateur career, is Caroline, who Daniel describes as ‘better than me’.

Certainly, for what my opinion is worth, this 19-year-old with an unblemished 40-win amateur record is not only the hot favourite to win gold for Britain whenever the next Olympics are staged but the most talented female boxer I have seen.

The fighting family Dubois are proud of each other. Caroline joins her big brother for a dip in the pool before our talk resumes on boxing, Daniel holding court in the state-of-the-art barber’s chair next to the whirlpool bath in the adjacent spa. What better place for splitting hairs about the heavyweight champions now looking back over their shoulders in his direction.

Dubois clings as long as he can to the tradition that what happens between fighters in the gym stays in the gym. But he cannot resist a smile when pressed on the widespread gossip that when he was barely 17 he knocked Joshua down, if not out, in sparring.

‘I know what happened,’ he says. ‘Joshua knows what happened. Everybody who was there knows what happened. What can I say? Well, he knows he got, er, scrambled.’

Whatever the absolute truth, that incident feeds into Dubois’s confidence about the outcome of a fight between them: ‘I think AJ would be the most comfortable for me of fights against the current top three. His style looks to suit me. Some critics say he’s robotic. Maybe he is to some extent. He knows what to expect from me: that I’d be on him.’

What of Wilder, the fabled knock-out hitman startlingly dethroned by Fury as WBC champion?

‘The most dangerous in terms of KO power,’ Dubois says. ‘If he still has enough left in him after being crushed by Fury. People said I was all punch and no skill. But I proved them wrong when I outboxed Nathan Gorman before taking him out. Against Wilder I would have to use those skills I’ve always had, for however long it takes, to be sure it’s me who lands the big shot before he does.’

And Fury, who is most generally tipped to come through his trilogy fight with Wilder and at least one domestic mega-battle with Joshua clutching all the belts our young pretender covets?

‘Tyson’s the top dog at the moment,’ says Dubois. ‘Deserves to be. What he did to Deontay was fantastic. He is the most complete boxer of the three. Perhaps not the heaviest puncher but he’s enormous. He can finish.

‘And he has great elusive movement, especially for his size. All that will make him the most awkward opponent for me. I will keep the pressure on him. Keep quartering the ring the way I’ve been developing lately with Martin. And I will catch up with him at some point.

‘If he comes charging at me like he did in the second fight against Wilder, I will knock him out early. If he goes back to moving and dancing, I will get him as he fades late. This is not ego and I don’t trash talk. I just have to state what I believe.

‘And there’s something else. I wonder how much motivation these three still have. They’ve won everything they ever wanted. They’ve made all their money. They are in their 30s and, although heavyweights are supposed to reach their prime late, times have changed in boxing. We all fight less often these days and they’re less used to the hard grind now.

‘Do they still want it as much as I do, a young man coming up to everything I’ve wanted all my life? I have all the time ahead of me to be not only the top heavyweight of my generation but to dominate for a decade or more. And if I can then bid to overtake Lennox Lewis as the best British heavyweight ever. Hopefully even join him among Ali, Holyfield, Frazier, Tyson, Foreman as one of the best in history.’

Before starting to make good on those lofty promises he has a couple of obligations to meet. His next fight is a rust-remover against undefeated German Erik Pfeifer behind the closed doors of the BT studios in two weeks’ time.

Then, after what will surely become 15 straight wins including 14 knockouts, comes potentially the hardest test so far against silver Olympian Joe Joyce. Hopefully in front of a crowd at the O2 Arena in November or December.

With the schedule for those huge fights between Fury, Joshua and Wilder crowded into 2021 by the pandemic, Dubois will have to wait for his big shot. He accepts that. Nor will he complain if Dillian Whyte is shoehorned into the agenda some time next year.

He says: ‘Dillian has been waiting for his title chance for a long time. He’s not getting any younger, looks a bit slower and it may come a bit late for him. But although he’s not an elite boxer, he’s a tough fighter and I hope he gets his chance.

‘At my age, an extra couple of big exciting wins in the first half of next year should force whoever is the world champion to face me.’

The focus is laser. Always has been. Unlike the stereotypical boxing caricature, Dubois has never been in trouble at school or with the law.

He says: ‘My interest in fighting is in the ring. I have no time for that fake macho man rubbish.’

Many outside the family circle may be surprised by this lucid Dubois. Not Frank Warren, his promoter, who says: ‘I have always known there is much more to this young man than meets the eye.’

By way of further evidence, when asked how he perceives his long-term future, Dubois provides his own post-script to this piece:

‘I can’t ever imagine life without boxing. They say life begins at 40 but I know boxing is what will define me. Always. One way or the other.’

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