Great Expectations: Caroline Dubois is aiming for the very top

SHANE McGUIGAN, standing with his arms folded, does not take his gaze off the 22-year-old southpaw working on a heavy bag a few feet away when he speaks.

“I’m telling you now,” he says. “She is going to beat them all. Every single one of them.”

The boxer in question is Caroline Dubois, the phenom of women’s boxing today, the kid sister of Daniel, who is now the only member of the family working with McGuigan at his east London gym.

Her fledgling record is unlike any other in the women’s game. She has six wins from six and all but one of them have come inside the distance which is as rare as hen’s teeth when the combatants are boxing over six or eight two-minute rounds.

But Dubois is unlike the others. When she won the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires aged 17, acclaimed boxing broadcaster Mike Costello suggested she might be the greatest female fighter he had ever seen. McGuigan, too, feels the same.

It has meant she has carried a weight of expectation since she was a teenager and has grown accustomed to handling it with ease.

“I take it all in my stride because I train very hard,” she says. “If I didn’t, and I wasn’t performing as I do then I would probably get nervous. I’d feel like an imposter if all these people were saying these things and I wasn’t the real deal. But I genuinely feel like I am. I know what I can do.”

She has proven it so far but, after boxing the best of her peers as an amateur, the truth is she has not mixed it with anybody in her league since she turned professional. She was taken the distance by a 34-year-old Lithuanian lady called Vaida Masiokaite on her debut but has required a combined total of just 13 rounds to despatch her five opponents since.

“It’s no good me just doing it at the lower level though, against people you’re supposed to stop,” Dubois interjects when her record is discussed. “It’s about when you step up and you’re still doing that. That’s when people know you’re legit.

“My favourite fighters are Vergil Ortiz, Errol Spence, Naoya Inoue. These kind of guys. They’re stopping people and they’re fighting world champions. I want to be just like them so I need to bring that same energy.

“But the reality is it’s hard to get opponents and people want good money to fight me, obviously. It can be difficult to get fights over the line.”

However, on Friday she takes a notable step up when she faces Argentina’s Yanina Lescano over eight twos. The visitor is 13-2 (4), rated at No.2 in the world by the WBC, and only narrowly lost a split decision to highly rated and undefeated former amateur world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Estelle Mossely.

That was also one of Lescano’s five 10-round fights so she has far more experience than Dubois and knows a victory at York Hall will suddenly put her on course for big money fights against the likes of Chantelle Cameron or Katie Taylor.

“This is the sort of opponent I need,” Dubois said. “I want to be fighting for world titles next year and I want to be fighting Mikaela Mayer by the end of this year.

“For me to demand those things I need to step up myself and start performing against good opponents. This is a breakout moment for me to do that.”

Dubois has made no secret of the fact that Mayer is her top target. The ambitious Londoner knows a victory over the Top Rank star, regardless of what belt she might be holding, would make a sizable impact in America. Mayer, meanwhile, has not seemed enthused by the idea. The 32-year-old is rebuilding following her defeat to Alycia Baumgardner at super-featherweight in October.

She has since moved up to lightweight, where Dubois currently resides, but Mayer is chasing the likes of Cameron and Taylor, as opposed to surveying the division’s young, hungry upstarts.

“I’ve seen her say that she doesn’t see us on the same timelines,” Dubois says. “But the way I see it, if I keep stepping up in every fight and I’m able to knock people out and dominate, people will start asking for it.

“They don’t want to see me in the ring with girls I should be beating, who have lost 10 times, they want to see me in the ring against people who have been there and done it. Then they can tell if I’m the real deal or not. I want to get to a position where it’s not just me calling for it, but the public are too.

“I can understand from her perspective why she wouldn’t want that fight. She’s aiming for people like Katie Taylor – the cash-money fights. Even if she loses, she still wins.

“This is a business so I can understand that mindset but she’s saying she wants to create a legacy. She acts as if she’s this great fighter but to be on the same level as someone like Katie Taylor, you have to fight people who are dangerous.”

Dubois with her coach, Shane McGuigan (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Dubois’ confidence in overcoming an established opponent like Mayer before the year is out is born from one particular spar four years ago.

“We were in America,” she recalls. “And that was very surprising because I expected a lot from her and it wasn’t what I expected. When you get in the ring and think someone is going to be all that, and they’re just… not.

“But it was a good spar and it’s given me confidence because I was an 18-year-old and I stepped in the ring with Mikaela Mayer and it was nothing. It was like sparring anyone.

“But I know how good I am. I’ve sparred Sandy Ryan, Natasha Jonas, Chantelle Cameron. I’ve been in with these girls, I’ve been around the world as an amateur. That’s where my confidence comes from.”

So where will it take her?

“The goal is to be undisputed,” she says. “To retire and to have people say ‘she was a great fighter’, not just a great female one. I want to do things that have never been done before. I want to sell out arenas and be someone that people stay up late at night to watch.

“I’ll move through the weights. I’m only 22 and I’m big for the weight. I see myself moving up gradually, doing a Canelo and going through as many weights as I can.

“I want to prove Shane right.”

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