On paper, Saturday’s heavyweight fight between Filip Hrgovic and Daniel Dubois appears to be a rock-solid, even match-up between top heavyweight contenders. 

In reality the fighters have assumed – or been assigned – definite roles. 

While Hrgovic’s abilities and qualities are being afforded maybe a little more respect than his relatively thin record deserves, Dubois is the underdog who once again has questions to answer.

Can Dubois retain the self-belief he seemed to discover during his late stoppage of Jarrell Miller last December? Does he possess the inner hardness and boxing I.Q to make in-fight adjustments and turn a hard fight around? Ultimately, is he good enough to win?

Throughout the promotion, the confident Hrgovic has carried himself like a man who already knows what will be on the exam paper, but Dubois may just pose a few unexpected questions of his own. 

Dubois has brought young trainer and expert padman, Kieran Farrell, into camp ahead of the fight as he seeks to add different dimensions to his game.

As a young fighter, Farrell was renowned for living and breathing the sport. He set up a treadmill in his mother’s front room and would wake up at ungodly hours to pound out the miles before going to work on the roads. He would train, eat, and rest like a world champion and treat four- and six-round fights like title bouts. He won the Central Area lightweight title and, in 2012, boxed Anthony Crolla for the English title. Unfortunately, he suffered a bleed on the brain and collapsed after a thrilling fight. 

Farrell was extremely lucky to survive but, at just 22 years old, his fighting days were over. The ordeal didn’t dampen Farrell’s enthusiasm for the sport. As soon as he was able, he opened The People’s Gym in his hometown of Heywood and began training boxers. Vicious Promotions quickly followed, and Farrell once again found himself ducking between the ropes, only wearing a suit rather than his gloves and shorts.

As a fighter, Farrell was a bundle of aggressive energy. As a trainer, he preaches the importance of fast hands, slick defensive skills and flair. Farrell’s star has risen quickly. He has relocated to Essex and helps to teach young fighters at the Mike Tyson gym in Saudi Arabia. He was out of the country when the wheels started turning. 

“I came back from Saudi Arabia in February. One of the amateurs I’d been training in Brentwood got spotted by Daniel’s dad. He noticed he’d got better and someone told him he’d been training with me. I got a phone call later that night asking if I’d be interested in working with Daniel,” Farrell told BoxingScene.

“I went in the gym and, I’ll be honest, I knew Daniel was a good fighter and I’d followed his career, but I didn’t know how my style would gel with Daniel. I know I’m fast and hyperactive and I can be a bit loud where Daniel is quiet and gets on with his job. I thought, ‘F**k it. I’ll take my little thin pads with me and just do what I do.’ They loved it.

“I got in the car and my phone started beeping. They put an announcement out that I was a new team member. I hadn’t even spoken to anyone. I sat down with them afterwards and they said they loved it and wanted me to be part of the team full time.”

Farrell’s initial role quickly expanded. Don Charles remains the main man in Dubois’ corner and the Londoner seems to have figured out how to connect with the quietly spoken giant.

Charles played a big part in guiding him through some tricky rounds during last December’s victory over Jarrell Miller and clearly sees a huge amount of untapped potential. 

This wasn’t a case of Charles being forced to hand over some of his responsibilities, the Londoner was happy to invite Farrell into the fold.

“They were after a padman to come and speed him up and to my knowledge, it was going to be a couple of sessions a week. Because Dan took to me so well, they just said, ‘do you want to be part of the team and do what you do’,” Farrell said. “Don wanted him to box the way I’ve been showing him so I’ve been an addition to the camp and I’ve been doing what I do every day. Don does his thing, I do mine and hopefully the styles come together and we get the outcome of Dan knocking Hrgovic out and we can move on to the next big fight.”

If Farrell was initially unsure about how well he and Dubois would hit it off, he quickly found he had plenty of raw materials to work with. 

Lots of attention is focused on Dubois’s heavy, accurate jab and thudding right hand but, when he chooses to be, the 26 year-old can be a risk taker. He is an explosive finisher and willing to dig his toes into the canvas and rattle off shots when he has an opponent hurt. He puts his punches together better than the vast majority of heavyweights and mixes up his combinations cleverly to head and body.

Farrell’s padwork would make even the most casual of keep-fitter’s hands look quick for a 30 second instagram video but he knows that there is much, much more to elite fighting than memorising an unrealistic 20-punch routine.

Especially at heavyweight, good combination punching involves being aware of and controlling what is coming back the other way.

He has found Dubois a willing student and can’t wait to see how their work translates in the ring this weekend. 

“He’s only here for the boxing. He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He’s not interested in any of that. He just wants to be the best boxer he can be,” Farrell said. “I’m excited for Saturday because he’s going to show everyone what a destructive guy he is.

“I do a lot of work with amateurs and kids and I teach a lot of people. Whatever I asked Dan to do, he could do straight away because he had the same sort of vision. He was a very good amateur. He’s got hands too. He doesn’t throw one punch, he can throw six punches. I was surprised at how quickly he picks things up. You show him once and that’s it, he does it. He’s a very fast learner.

“He’s got good variety. I said this to him the other day, ‘You put body shots into combinations all you’ve got to do is think about it. If you put your hands together, whoever is in front of you is f***ed.’ He’s the biggest puncher I’ve held the pads for. I know that for a fact. I’ve had quite a lot of big punchers on the pads but Daniel Dubois is next level power.

 “I’m excited for Saturday because I expect a big performance. I’ve seen Hrgovic and I’ve heard all the s**t about sparring but you’re talking about a guy who was 19 or 20 years old. There’s a massive difference now. He’s been in big fights. He’s boxed Joe Joyce and Oleksandr Usyk. He beat Jarrell Miller last time. He’s had good experience and not only that, I’ve been involved for three months, and I can see a massive difference between the first day I took him on the pads and now and I know how good I am. Whatever he’s expecting, he’s gonna get something totally different.”

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