Zhang finishes Wilder as Dubois upsets Hrgović on the morning of changing fate

<span>Daniel Dubois lands a right hand on Filip Hrgović during their Sunday morning fight in Riyadh.</span><span>Photo: Mark Robinson/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/qYhjJcRS.2_harJPTYj.uA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/d3ac5a178533e06a7e5 6b65f26338af4″ data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/qYhjJcRS.2_harJPTYj.uA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/d3ac5a178533e06a7e5 6b65f26338af4 “/><button class=

Daniel Dubois lands a right hand on Filip Hrgović during their Sunday morning fight in Riyadh.Photo: Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Deontay Wilder’s career as an elite heavyweight came to a crashing halt. For Daniel Dubois, the journey to the top flight has only just begun. And the relentless, unsentimental round and round of boxing’s glamor division changed dramatically early Sunday morning in the an-Nafud desert.

Related: Zhilei Zhang eliminates Deontay Wilder after Daniel Dubois stops Filip Hrgović – as it happened

Wilder, who held the WBC version of the heavyweight title from 2015 through 2020, suffered a brutal fifth-round knockout at the hands of Zhilei Zhang in the main event of a joint Matchroom-Queenbury card featuring the stables of major promoters of British boxing faced off. each other.

The disastrous defeat marked Wilder’s fourth defeat in his past five appearances and the likely end point for the 38-year-old fighter widely regarded as boxing’s biggest puncher, who had strongly hinted at retirement in the lead-up to the crossroads fight in the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. .

“I have to pay attention to his right hand, but I successfully took away his right hand,” Zhang said through a translator. “I block a few punches, but yeah. He hits hard. I give him a lot of respect. He’s a heavy puncher.”

Zhang, the 41-year-old from China’s Henan province based in the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey, suffered a setback in December against Joseph Parker, losing on points despite scoring two knockdowns. But he spent the first four rounds on Sunday morning with an eye-opening 60-pound weight advantage, methodically walking past the uncharacteristically timid Wilder, who seemed a silhouette of the Alabama knockout artist who raced to a record of 40 wins in 40 fights with 39 victories. comes in the distance before the first installment of his heavyweight championship trilogy with Tyson Fury in 2018.

Wilder woke from his slumber early in the fifth and landed a pair of wild right hands that took his mountainous foe back, but the abrupt offensive created openings that Zhang wasted little time on. Within moments he had spun Wilder 180 degrees with a lead right hook that left the American stunned before following it up with a clear shot: a second right hook that exploded flush and dumped him on the seat of his trunk. Wilder managed to beat the 10-count, but he got up and the referee stopped it at 1:51.

“I lost to Parker,” Zhang said. “It was a deserved defeat. He was a better man that night. But I do think I learned a lot from that fight because after I knocked out Joe Joyce [twice in 2023], I was overconfident and I underestimated Parker. That’s how I learned that I had to stay focused. Stay focused until the bell rings.”

The largely uneventful affair, at least until the violent denouement, was in stark contrast to the action-oriented, defensive optional fight before it, in which Dubois upset the odds and took a big step toward a heavyweight title shot with an eighth-round finish. retirement of IBF mandatory challenger Filip Hrgović.

The twice-defeated Dubois, a 26-year-old from south-east London who lost by ninth-round knockout to unified heavyweight champion Oleskandr Usyk in August, took an enormous amount of punishment in the opening rounds as Hrgović found an alarmingly consistent buy with one punitive punishment. right hand after the other. But the Croat suffered a cut on his right eye in the second round and on his left eye in the fifth round. His condition deteriorated under the frenetic pace he set from the opening minutes.

On the seventh, Dubois stalked Hrgović around the ring, throwing and landing heavy blows as his exhausted opponent retreated. The bloodied Hrgović, whose white trunk had faded to an ominous pink, was badly injured by a concussion at the end of the frame and then by a pair of explosive shots along the ropes that could have closed the show had it not been for the bell.

Dubois picked up where he left off in the eighth, but it wasn’t long before referee John Latham called time and called for the ringside doctor to inspect Hrgović’s twin wounds. When the doctor appeared dissatisfied, Latham waved it off 57 seconds into the round and Dubois’ career-best performance was achieved.

“I ate those shots, but it was all to wake me up,” Dubois said of his slow start. “After I felt a few shots and a few stings, I woke up and just dealt with it. I just thought, don’t wait. Do not wait.

“I came to him the lap before the last one. It just came together like magic. …I’m just so proud of myself for this. It’s all a learning experience. Last year I came from a low point and now we are back on top.”

The heavy-handed Briton, nicknamed Dynamite, claimed the IBF interim heavyweight title with Sunday’s victory, which could be upgraded to a proper world championship if Usyk, who defeated Fury for all four major titles last month, wins before the scheduled date. the sanctioning body would be deprived. Think about a second chance. Dubois could also set up a lucrative showdown with former two-time champion Anthony Joshua, who was in action from ringside on Sunday.

“I’m happy to have this IBF belt and on to the next one,” said Dubois. “I heard the next opponent will be AJ, so bring it on. I just want to be the best. This is my era. This is my time, and I just have to keep improving and [keep] pass these tests.”

Earlier, Liverpool’s Nick Ball gave Britain a second current male world champion by winning the WBA featherweight title from American Raymond Ford in a razor-thin 12-round split decision.

One judge scored 115-113 for Ford but was overruled twice by the same margin for Ball, who captured a world title in his second attempt after being cruelly denied in a controversial draw in March against Mexico’s Rey Vargas.

“He is a tough man and a class boxer. I had to dig deep to get the belt,” Ball said. “I’m made up. I should be twice [champion] but that is not the case. I’m champion now, so it doesn’t matter that much.”

The 27-year-old Merseysider finished strongly in a hugely entertaining back-and-forth battle that certainly demands a rematch. He joins WBO cruiserweight titleholder Chris Billam-Smith as Britain’s second man to currently hold a major world title.

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