01 April 2008 – by Mark Doyle
August 25, 2007. Not a date that Bernard Dunne is going to forget too quickly. Indeed, it was on that particular day that the affable Dubliner lost not only his European super-bantamweight title, but his undefeated record as a professional boxer.
Pitted against Spains knockout specialist, Kiko Martinez, Dunne, never the heaviest of hitters, knew that he had to box cleverly and patiently on the outside, and stay away from his opponents punishing right hands. But he didnt.
The bell signalling the start of the first round had barely stopped ringing by the time Dunne had been floored by a stinging Martinez haymaker. He managed to raise himself but hit the canvas twice more before the referee called a halt to contest after just 86 seconds and Dublins Point arena fell eerily silent for the first time ever during a Dunne fight.
I can honestly say I was in the best shape of my life going into that fight but as soon as I got in there, I dont know what happened, Dunne admits candidly in an exclusive interview with irish-boxing.com.
I just didnt see the punches. I just did not see that first right hand coming and the first thing I knew about it was when it hit me.
It would have been easy for me to blame everyone else for what happened, and make excuses for it but there was no way I was going to do that.
I got caught by a swinging right hand and I never recovered from the first knockdown. The other two were largely immaterial. The first shot did all the damage.
To lose an unbeaten record is always galling for a fighter but to taste defeat for the first time, in such a brutal manner, can be devastating. Losing on points is one thing but a stoppage loss is quite another.
Unsurprisingly, Dunne found it difficult to take. He had been obliterated inside less than a minute and a half and, with the defeat coming in his home town, he felt as if he had let the Irish public down. Indeed, so apologetic was he in the post-fight interviews, that one wondered if he felt worse for his supporters than he did himself.
However, the defeat did affect him on a personal level, too, particularly after he watched Martinez drop a points decision to Rendall Munroe in his very next outing, on March 7 of this year.
La Sensacion lost the European title in his very first defence after seeing his incredible punching power completely nullified and neutralised by the superior movement and boxing skills of his previously unheralded British foe.
Needless to say, Dunne did not quite know what to make of it all and the fight only added to the confusion and regret that Dunne had experienced after his loss to Martinez.
After watching the Munroe-Martinez fight, I was feeling two different emotions, he explains.
One, I was disappointed because I knew then that I wouldnt be getting a shot at Martinez for the European title but, two, it proved that Kiko was just a big puncher and thats it.
If I had done what I was told, stayed away from his right hand, moved around and use my boxing skills, I would have done exactly what Monroe did to Martinez. Well never know that now, though.
But surely he is keen on a rematch with Martinez? Surely he wants an opportunity to exact some revenge, to rectify the mistakes of their first meeting?
Yeah, Martinez is definitely unfinished business. Its not that I want to prove anything to anybody but maybe I want to prove something to myself; you always want to fight the guy whos beaten you, he concedes.
But, obviously, the belt is what Im looking for. Now, thats down to my management to sort out with Monroes camp.
But I cant really be looking past this ol boxing match coming up on the horizon, he adds, laughing.
Indeed, Dunne will make his long-awaited return to the ring against former IBF super-flyweight champion Felix El Macho Machado in Castlebar, Mayo on April 12.
It is a fascinating match-up, given what is at stake for Dunne: another loss and he knows that there might be no way back.
This fight is so important to me. I simply have to win it to make sure that Im available and in the reckoning if a European title shot becomes available, he says.
But what of Machado? The Venezuelan is 35 and a relative newcomer to the super-bantamweight division the heaviest he has ever fought at is 120lbs – but Dunne anticipating a tough test. He believes that Machado is more than capable of spoiling his hopes of reclaiming the European title.
I got a dvd of him this week. Hes a southpaw and he seems like he wants to box. He looks like a decent counter-puncher who likes to work off his jab and set up left hands straight through the middle, he reveals.
But Id like to think with me being the younger guy that my reflexes will be a bit quicker and maybe a little bit stronger as well.
Dunnes confidence has clearly not been shattered by the Martinez defeat. It has served as a timely reminder that he still has things to learn, areas that he must continue to work on, but, crucially, he still believes he can make it to the top of the professional ranks.
A lot of the Martinez defeat was my own fault and down to my own stupidity. If I saw it as anything more than a temporary setback then Id have to start questioning myself and wondering where I go from here, he muses.
I didnt lose my passion for this game after the Martinez fight. I obviously took a break after but that was just to recharge the batteries, to clear the head and get myself back in the right frame of mind to get back out there.
So now Ive just got to make sure Im ready and I dont think theres any doubt that I wont be.
I still believe in myself, Im still young and Ive learned from my setback.
It was once said that defeat is nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better. Bernard Dunne believes that and is determined to prove it true.