Facing AJ! Dorian Darch reflects on four minutes he’ll never forget with brutal honesty

Facing AJ! Dorian Darch reflects on four minutes he’ll never forget with brutal honesty

More than 74,000 people will pack Cardiff’s Principality Stadium to witness an International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association unified heavyweight champion of the world on Saturday night.

One of them will be a civil engineer from Aberdare and when he sits down with his mates to see Anthony Joshua’s (19-0, 19KO) big bombs detonate, 33-year-old Dorian Darch (12-5-1, 1KO) will wince a little more than most. Why? The Welshman will know exactly what it feels like to be Carlos Takam (35-3-1, 27KO) and to receive the blasts of brute force.

Three years ago, the father of one was tasked with testing Joshua, who was then only a relatively raw Olympic gold medallist. It was the first time ‘AJ’ had fought in Wales and he came with just three professional bouts under his belt. Still, that shouldn’t detract from the daunting prospect that faced Darch’s fate.

“Look at the sheer size of the man, you know what I mean? I’m six foot two, 17 stone and I felt like a little boy stood next to him. He’s f****** massive,” said Darch when recalling his initial reaction to seeing Joshua in the flesh. “He’s a different fighter now to when I fought him but all of the potential was there to see then, though, in his fourth fight.”

Anthony Joshua Dorian Darch

Although a heavy betting favourite, there was no arrogance displayed from Joshua, which can be forgiven in the early stages of a special talent’s career when mass-media attention and all of its companions are first being experienced. Many future stars have been carried away with the hype before their success really gets going. On the contrary, Darch insists the Watford man was a gentleman and wishes more boxers would adopt that attitude in the modern click-bait climate’s desire for drama.

“It was the first time I had to do anything like that, press conferences and big weigh-ins, and probably the last time I have to do anything like it, as well,” said Darch, reflecting on a surreal experience. “He was a nice bloke, he talked well and he didn’t slag me off or anything, which is rare in boxing. Everyone should respect each other like that. At the end of the day, I tried to have a go, he beat me and the better man won. That’s it, it’s simple.”

It was Darch’s first appearance on a show hosted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport and he owned a decent record of seven wins and two defeats for his first appearance on Sky Sports. The one-time Welsh senior amateur champion has always been modest and understands his role in the sport – to be an honest trier at a certain level. However, it wasn’t until Darch was face-to-face with Joshua in the ring at the Motorpoint Arena that the reality of the situation hit him.

Darch said: “Steve Sims phoned me and it was arranged for October [2013] but he pulled out with a [back] injury. They paid me a grand compensation and then I had to fight him in the February. I had Christmas out of the way and started training and tried to get stuck in. I never looked at him differently to any other boy I fought when I was training.

“Obviously, on the night, with the size of the occasion and things, walking in to the ring with 5,000 people – that’s when it got to me the most. When I stood in the ring with him in the opposite corner, the sheer size of him… we were roughly the same weight but he looked twice the size of me. I always have a go but I knew realistically in my the back of my mind that he was going to beat me but I would go down trying.”

Their fight was scheduled for six rounds and the first round was always going to be the equivalent to walking on a tight rope whilst dangling over a minefield. To Darch’s credit, he evaded danger for most of the session and it was some achievement considering the entertaining bruiser is more renown for his appetite for a scrap than his defensive skills. Joshua, who warmed in to action and just began to rev his engine, almost got to grips with the Welshman by the time the bell sounded, though.

Darch said: “You’ve probably seen me on our local shows – I’m not a fighter who makes people miss very often but if you watch the first round, he didn’t hit me a lot until he clipped me at the end of it. I could see the punches coming and Steve Sims worked with me on trying to make Joshua miss.

“When he hits you, though… he really hits you and you stay hit. My head was like a pinball at the end of the first round. Luckily the bell went or he would’ve stopped me in the first round.”

Anthony Joshua Dorian Darch

When Darch sat down, former British champion Steve ‘Sammy’ Sims assessed his state and instructed him to keep moving. By now, his senses were still alight but dimmed, dazed amidst the effects of that short and speedy combination moments earlier. Joshua would only need another 45 seconds to finish the job, though his target can rightfully identify the positives from the special experience.

The conclusion was quick and Darch was refreshingly (and brutally) honest about the ending. He said: “I can remember thinking ‘this is not going to last much longer’ and I was right. It was funny the next day; you wouldn’t have known I’d been fighting. The actual shot he caught me with was on the temple, so I weren’t injured in any way, my legs just went from me.

“I didn’t go down though. I think I’m the only man he hasn’t dropped [as a professional], that’s my claim to fame! When people ask me about it, I say ‘he would have hit me in to the crowd if the ref hadn’t jumped in but he didn’t drop me.’ That’s something, isn’t it?”

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