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Dunne’s WBA title chance – Irish Boxing coming of Age

By Gary Burns: As Bernard Dunne prepares to challenge Panamanian Ricardo Cordoba for the WBA super-bantamweight) world title (Celestino Caballero was made super champion by the WBA hence vacating the regular WBA title) tonight in the O2 in Dublin, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the state of Irish Boxing.

Irish boxing has made a rebirth of sorts and in no small amount this is due to the intelligent promoting and match making of Dunne’s promoter Brian Peters. Under his direction boxing in Ireland is at a level it has never been at. Although Dunne’s world title fight is the first in 13 years it is the sheer variety and wealth of prospects that has everyone excited on the island. The performance of the boxing stars in Beijing also opened up a new audience to the world of boxing.

Ireland at the moment has three top rated middle-weights in the form of Andy Lee, Irish born Matthew Macklin and of course near title contending John Duddy. Lee, although suffering a shock defeat last year against Brian Vera, continues his road of recovery on the Dunne Bill tonight against tough German Alexander Sipos. He would be my tip for an eventual world title under the tutelage of hall of fame trainer Emmanuel Steward. It is also a return fight for him as he suffered a deep cut which required surgery when he TKO’d Willie Gibb last July. The Irish born Macklin is coming off the best win of his career when he TKO’d former world title challenger Wayne Elcock last week. I can see big things for Macklin certainly on the British domestic front and also challenging for European honours in the next few fights.

Duddy seems to be on the verge of a world title fight, potentially late this year, and has a massive following on both sides of the Atlantic. Bob Arum sees his pay-per-view potential and despite his somewhat limited style he is a fan favourite and a crowd pleasing fighter. Although this may account for him getting hit so much! His next fight seems somewhat of a tune-up/safety fight against veteran Billy Lyell. Perhaps he is worried that a similar situation to that of the Walid Smichet fight may happen again which sidelined Duddy for a few months after suffering a deep-cut and derailed any potential world title fight with Kelly Pavlik last year.

In the light welterweight division perhaps the fighter with the most potential because of the shallowness of the division is Paul McCloskey who is the British champ and could be challenging for a European belt by the end of the year. He is coming off his most impressive win of his career against Dean Harrison. McCloskey’s awkward style and obvious ring ability would be a handful for any of the world title holders. With Ricky Hatton chasing the final few mega-fights to end his career this division is wide open and seems to be primed for McCloskey to take a step up to a level that I think he can handle.

The Belfast heavyweight Martin Rogan has plenty of options ahead of him now. Who would have thought this part-time taxi driver would be mentioned in the same breath as David Haye and Lamon Brewster a year ago. His story has caught the public’s imagination and although age is not on his side he deserves a big pay day. There are plenty of fighters that I did not mention who are also fantastic prospects such as Olympian Darren Sutherland and the Hyland brothers. I just wanted to highlight on a great day for Irish boxing how much boxing has developed professionally in Ireland. Hopefully Irish boxing will come of age tonight in the O2.

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