Oleksandr Usyk clambered off the canvas in the fifth round and then stopped Daniel Dubois in the ninth on a highly controversial night in Wroclaw, Poland.

The Ukrainian retained his WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF heavyweight titles as a result of the victory but he had to climb off the floor after he was downed by a right hand to the body which referee Luis Pabon judged to have been low.

However, replays showed that it was a borderline shot which might have been ruled as a legal blow on another night.

Dubois, who was not docked a point for the supposed infringement, failed to capitalize on that moment in the fifth and within four rounds he was stopped by a right hand from the rejuvenated Usyk.

"I feel good," Usyk said afterwards. "I am grateful for my team, my family and my children. But I am grateful for my country and the Ukrainian army. Thank you so much.

"Boxing is a tough sport but I'm great. I love boxing. I respect my opponent but it's boxing, it's not ballet. Do I rate his power? No. Only in my balls."

Just two days after Ukraine celebrated their Independence Day, Usyk brought this defence of his world heavyweight titles to a city with a large Ukrainian community. 

Wroclaw is only a few hours’ drive across the eastern border with Usyk’s country and it is estimated that the city’s population has increased by as much as 30 per cent as a result of refugees who fled following Russia’s invasion last year.

A video message from Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was played out across the stadium, which was lit up in yellow and blue, before the fighters made their ringwalks. “Glory Ukraine,” he said to close his speech.

All of that meant this was incredibly hostile territory for Dubois, who would have felt a long way from his home in Greenwich, south London. But he looked very relaxed as he made his way through the Stadion Wroclaw as Bob Marley’s So Much Things To Say played.

He then had to wait and watch from the ring as Usyk’s arrival in the stadium nearly lifted the roof off the place. Although it was not sold out, the stadium was still packed with Usyk fans who whipped up a superb atmosphere as the rain fell.

Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, weighed in only 12 1/4lbs lighter than Duboism the fully-fledged career heavyweight. However, he was clearly the shorter man and had to use his excellent judgement of distance in order to land with his southpaw jab without getting countered.

Usyk nicked a close first round but it would have settled the nerves for Dubois, boxing for the first time since he was dropped three times in the first round before he stopped Kevin Lerena. However, after making a decent start to the second, Dubois was wobbled by a straight southpaw left midway through the round. Another one followed as Usyk began to turn up the heat early.

Dubois was hesitating for a split second too long which allowed Usyk to land with two or three shots before exiting and circling. But the Londoner still looked dangerous at times and came close with a couple of attempted right uppercuts.

The fourth was better for Dubois, who was starting to grow in confidence. Usyk’s trademark movement also seemed to be affected by the wet canvas caused by the rain. And he was affected even more by an apparent low blow from Dubois early in the fifth, a right hand bolo, which dropped him almost instantly. Usyk stayed down for a long time and his arm was quivering in pain as he attempted to recover. Replays appeared to show the punch landed right on the belt line and could well have been legal.

After taking a number of minutes to recover Usyk and Dubois touched gloves and restarted the action but the champion seemed to be on unsteady legs. The challenger, however, did not take his opportunity and it was Usyk who finished the round on top, snapping Dubois’ head back with a left hand. The sixth was a far more even round with Usyk still not totally comfortable and Dubois landed a crisp right hand on the bell.

Dubois appeared to have Usyk in trouble in the seventh round but it was the world champion who turned it around and piled on the pressure as the rain continued to pour. Dubois, however, appeared to be handling Usyk’s power well.

That was until the final seconds of the eighth round when Usyk made a major breakthrough with a double jab, cross-hook-cross combination which forced Dubois to take a knee. He just about rose in time to beat the referee’s count and the bell rung before Usyk had a chance to pounce again.

But the champion was straight back to work in the ninth and the writing was, by now, on the wall. It was a pinpoint lead hook which closed the show, landing directly on Dubois’ chin, and although he attempted to get back to his feet, Pabon waved it off.

The victory now clears the path for Usyk to face WBC champion Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia early next year.

Usyk said: "I’m ready tomorrow. I’m ready. Next fight I am ready to fight Tyson Fury but does Tyson Fury want to? I have no idea. But I can’t wait to see my children and my family. I’m a little bit tired."