Daniel Debois was cheated out of career-defining KO

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

Referee Luis Pabon’s low-blow ruling

Referee Luis Pabon got it wrong. Challenger Daniel Dubois landed a body blow that put titleholder Oleksander Usyk down and hurt him badly in the fifth round of their fight Saturday in Wroclaw, Poland, which initially appeared to be the punch of Dubois’ lifetime. Instead, Pabon ruled that it was a low blow and gave Usyk the time he needed to recover, after which he resumed his domination of Dubois and won by a ninth-round knockout to retain his titles. Was the punch illegal? In my opinion, no. I called respected California referee Jack Reiss to get a precise definition of a low blow. He suggested that you find the top of the hip bone – below the navel – and draw a line in your mind across the body. That’s the boundary. Reiss explained that if more than half the glove strays below that line, the referee is justified if he rules a low blow. Now look at the above photo, which shows where the punch landed. The top of the hip bone is at about the bottom of Usyk’s waist band, meaning the majority of the glove is clearly above the boundary line. Thus, my conclusion is that it was not a low blow. Had Pabon made the right call, Dubois would be a unified champion assuming Usyk would’ve been unable to beat a 10 count. As it is, Dubois was deprived of a career-defining victory and millions of dollars going forward. He and his team ad good reason to be devasted afterward.


Oleksandr Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk ultimately got the job done against Daniel Dubois. Gabriel Kuchta / Getty Images

Oleksandr Usyk’s victory over Dubois – and to a smaller degree, his legacy – will always be tainted by the events of Saturday night at Stadion Wroclaw, which was filled with the champion’s Ukrainian countrymen. The majority of those who witnessed the fight seem to agree that Usyk was knocked out by an inferior opponent only to be given a second life by a referee who made the wrong call. And please don’t suggest that Usyk could’ve gotten to his feet had Pabon ruled the punch was legal and begun to count. He clearly couldn’t, based on what we saw immediately after he went down. Alas, Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) received a precious gift from Pabon. And, of course, he wasn’t about to question the referee’s ruling. He recovered after about four minutes, got back to business and knocked out Dubois to retain his belts and possibly set up a lucrative showdown with fellow titleholder Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship this winter if the WBC beltholder gets past MMA star Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28. Sometimes good fortune is as important as a fighter’s ability in a sport that can go wonky at times.


Daniel Dubois

Daniel Dubois’ chances of winning came and went in Round 5. Gabriel Kuchta / Getty Images

Think about what a victory over Usyk would’ve meant to Dubois. He would’ve won the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, which would’ve put the 25-year-old Londoner in a position to face Usyk in a rematch or Fury in a massive event in Saudi Arabia. Either way, we’re talking a windfall – many millions of dollars – for Dubois. That’s gone, thanks to Pabon’s ruling. Instead, Dubois (19-2, 18 KOs) will have to get back in line with the other heavyweight contenders hoping to get a shot at one of the four major titles. And, of course, we can’t be certain that it will ever happen for him. Let’s face it: Aside from the fifth round, he didn’t look great on Saturday. He was outboxed and outworked by a far better fighter. And he went out with whimper. He went down in Round 8 as a result of a flurry of punches, one of which seemed to land on his temple. And he was stopped by a short right from his southpaw opponent in Round 9. It wasn’t an inglorious conclusion to what could’ve been his finest moment. Dubois can still improve; he’s only 25, after all. However, it’s possible that his best chance to become a world champion came and went on a strange night in Poland.


Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson was at his best on Saturday.  Mikey Williams / Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

The talented 23-year-old heavyweight contender couldn’t have performed much better than he did against rugged, but crude Andriy Rudenko on Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He dominated his overmatched opponent with his jab and power punches thrown in overwhelming combinations, including a wicked body attack that broke down Rudenko and led to a fifth-round stoppage. Anderson looked sensational. Of course, our praise should be tempered. He was coming off a difficult fight against veteran Charles Martin, who hurt Anderson (16-0, 15 KOs) and became the first to take him the distance. Rudenko (35-7, 21 KOs) was selected as the opponent so the rising young contender from Toledo, Ohio, could showcase his skills, make a strong statement and continue to grow as a fighter without facing a serious challenge. Mission accomplished. Anderson claimed the victory, looked good doing it and re-enforced the notion that he’s a legitimate candidate to become the next great heavyweight. Just give him time.



Pabon’s ruling on the phantom low blow arguably wasn’t his most disturbing moment during the fight. His strange behavior after he made the ruling was unprofessional. Usyk had taken a good portion of the five minutes allotted to recover when he clearly told Pabon he was prepared to resume fighting, saying, “I’m ready.” For some reason Pabon ignored the fighter and insisted that he take more time to recover. That’s inexplicable and inexcusable. It also bolsters the contention of Dubois’ promoter Frank Warren that Usyk benefitted from “a hometown decision.” Could Pabon have had a worse night? … The fifth-round of the Usyk-Dubois fight wasn’t the only strange element on Saturday. Efe Ajagba (18-1, 13 KOs) defeated previously unbeaten fellow heavyweight contender Zhan Kossobutskiy (19-1, 18 KOs) when the latter was disqualified in the fourth round of a scheduled 10-rounder for excessive holding. I’m not sure why Kossobutskiy bothered to show up. The matchup with Ajagba was a big opportunity for him and he tossed it in the trash, essentially quitting. Maybe his actions can be attributed to what analyst Tim Bradley said, that the fighter from Kazakhstan felt he was fighting both Ajagba and referee Chris Flores. I understand his frustration but a professional must focus on his work, not perceived slights on the part of officials. Another possibility is that Kossobutskiy realized he had no chance to win and simply wanted out.