There is a statue of a dead boxer outside the Peacock Gym in Canning Town. In this gritty little corner of east London the gold inscription on black marble reads: “In loving memory of Bradley Stone – A brave young man who died in the pursuit of his dreams.” Stone was 23 , and a British title fight against Richie Wenton, in April 1994. He was a super-bantamweight who trained at this very gym.
Twenty-five years later the new Peacock prodigy is a young heavyweight who cuts a much more formidable figure. walks past this reminder of boxing’s dangers every day. Born three and a half years after Stone died, and dreaming of becoming a world heavyweight champion, Dubois is entitled to ignore these haunting echoes of the past.
“A lot of things can do damage,” he says, quietly. “I look at it differently. is my calling and so I have no fear of getting hurt.”
After knocking out eight of the men he has beaten in , is he ever concerned about causing lasting ange after a knee injury to Calum Chambers.The defender suffered the injury in Sunday’s loss to Chelsea at the Emirates.A prognosis has yet to be given but there are fears Chambers could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.“We will discuss in thedamage to an opponent? “I never worry about that. I never take that into consideration. When I’m in a ring, I’m there to hurt you. That’s the objective in a fight. Your wellbeing is not my concern.”
Does he feel excited when he hurts his opponent? “Yeah,” he says with a soft exclamation which makes it unsurprising to learn is his favourite fighter. “Definitely. That embodies boxing. He took it to an extreme level but in this game people get hurt and their lives are are confident they can beat Tottenham Hotspur.The two Premier League clubs will clash in the Champions League final on June 1.After beating Spurs twice already this season, Matip believes the Reds can do it again.”It was a great season and we can fion the line. Tyson was my boxing hero. I took a shine to his ferociousness. I’m trying to use that to inspire me.”
Dubois is a much calmer presence than the Tyson I remember from past . But he harbours a similar relish for his dark and often chaotic calling. “I feel like, as boxers, we’re not like normal people. After a while doing this, you get that buzz. It can be wild and out of control. I have to try to control myself. That’s what boxing is about – control.”
Dubois is 21 but his reputation is growing. There have long been rumours he floored Anthony Joshua when they sparred a few years ago and that speculation flared again last week. Jarrell Miller, the talkative American who calls himself Big Baby, will be in New York on 1 June. In hyping a fight for which he will be the overwhelming underdog, Big Baby has done lots of yapping. and boasted about flying Dubois to New York to help him prepare for this world title fight: “I wanna say one name,” Miller stressed. “I heard the kid’s a badass – Daniel Dubois. I like the kid a lot. He’s thumped AJ a couple times in the gym.”
Unlike Miller or Tyson, Dubois is not a great talker. This could be down to his age but, I suspect, owes more to the fact he is a detached character. Dubois is less interested in Big Baby and New York than hearing that Tyson told me his hardest opponent was always himself. “Definitely. So much of boxing is to do with your mental state. Evander Holyfield talks about spirit. I definitely have that spirit and feel like I’ve got something special inside me. It’s about me bringing it out, controlling it and using it to become world champion.”
Will that spirit emerge fully only in adversity? “Probably. Sometimes you need to learn hard lessons. You have to look deep within yourself to bring out your best.”
What is the hardest facet of boxing? “Keeping control. Staying disciplined and in control is not easy.”
Even though Dubois starts smiling I sense the struggle to control himself when I ask about his infamous spar with Joshua. “I’m not going into that. We had a good spar and that launched my pro career. So I’ve got good memories from that sparring session when I was with the GB [amateur] squad. I caught him with some big shots. He was good work for me.”
Did he knock Joshua down? Dubois laughs, making faces to tell me his lips are sealed. He shrugs cheerfully when I say I’ll take his response as a yes. I’ve heard a big left wobbled Joshua and, apparently, put him down. “Yeah, it was a good shot.”
Was Joshua shocked by his power? “Every fighter I’ve fought has been shocked by my power.”
Did he feel Joshua’s power? “He’s a big man, throwing punches with bad intentions. You feel it. Every punch is hard. It was about avoiding them, being quick.”
Does he like being called a “badass” by Big Baby? “No. It’s irrelevant. I’m going to New York to get a wider glimpse of the world and boxing. Big Baby carries a lot of weight but he’s obviously done enough to earn a title shot. But, right now, the top heavyweights in the world are in England. America’s had its time at the top. It’s not like in Tyson’s day.”
Who does he think is the best of the three unbeaten heavyweights at the peak of his division – Joshua, Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder? “I’d go with the guy who’s got most of the belts. Joshua. He’s just ahead of Fury and Wilder but they’re all good. They need to fight each other. Then we’ll see who is the last man standing.”
How is Joshua after all the knockdown talk? “He’s fine. He understands it’s not personal. We don’t want to hurt each other outside but, in the ring, that’s our mentality. I also like Tyson Fury. We sparred once and he was very tricky. He’s got it all upstairs but I did OK and he did an interview straight after and called me an up-and-coming world champion.”
When will he be ready to challenge Fury and Joshua? “Probably in two years. I’m building towards those huge fights.”
Some boxing insiders believe Dubois turned pro too soon and he would have benefited from learning more at the highest level of amateur boxing. He fights for the 10th time as a professional on Friday at the Royal Albert Hall against .
“On paper he’s my most experienced opponent. He’s pretty tall, mobile, capable, but he’s not a hard puncher. I’m going out there to destroy him.”
It’s hard to know how good Dubois might be until he gets hit hard himself. He might crumble or he might prove to be as impressive as the hype suggests. Unlike his gifted sister Caroline, however, Dubois is not unbeaten. “I lost six times from when I was 11 to 18. I tried to bring out the emotion but I never cried. I thought: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ But I lost doing my best.”
Caroline won the Olympic youth lightweight title last year, aged 17. Her dazzling skills prompted the BBC’s venerable commentator Mike Costello to say: “I am tempted to .” Unbeaten in almost 40 amateur fights, Caroline also stuns her big brother with her talent and commitment.
“She’s so disciplined. Caroline puts me to shame sometimes. The way she’s so hard-working amazes me. We are close and [among a family of 11 children] seven of us still live together in Greenwich. Me, Caroline and our brother Prince are boxers. Prince is only six so this is a bit premature but he will be a world champion.”
It might be hard to believe but Dubois claims that, in his late teens, he would do press-ups on his knuckles for three hours without stopping. He shows me his deeply scarred knuckles. “I would do thousands of press-ups in three hours. I now only do 30 minutes in a row.”
How could he withstand the pain for a barely credible three hours? “I’m single-minded. When you get past it, pain is nothing.”
He takes off his shirt for the photo and shows off his imposing physique. I ask Dubois about Miller’s allegations that Joshua might have used performance-enhancing drugs – which the Briton . But Dubois’s friendly trainer Martin Bowers leans in: “We don’t talk about that.”
Surely there are concerns about doping and boxing? “We get tested a lot in this country,” Dubois says. “I was tested two weeks ago.”
There are other demons in boxing. Any man closing in on the world heavyweight title is bound to be stalked by admirers and hangers-on – few with good intentions. “I see them comimes has already gone through ankle surgery after his injury against Tottenham.Gomes seriously hurt his ankle after a Heung-Min Son tackle led him to awkwardly collide with Serge Aurier.But the club says he has gone through a procedure and is now recong over the hill,” Dubois says, wryly. “But they’re not here yet.”
Does he have a girlfriend? “I was seeing a girl recently but boxing’s so demanding I can’t afford to waste much time. You need a tailor‑made woman but it’s hard to find anyone who would understand this dedication. I need to be controlled – no messing around before a fight.”
The ring is darkened while Dubois shadowboxes. It’s raining outside, making the green ivy and red bricks around Stone’s statue glisten. The fallen fighter’s gloved hands are raised while, on the inscription, he is hailed as a “Little Gem” who is “Forever as proud as a Peacock”.
The same raw and compelling dreams of big fights and world titles roll on in this small corner of Canning Town.