Silent and stern sitting at a top table not too far from Bernard Dunne in 2007, one quick-to-comment Dublin press conference regular caught the determined glare of Kiko Martinez and quickly found the words to surmise the nervousness that had filled most in attendance – ‘that’s bleedin’ Mini Mike Tyson right there’.
The Dublin Destroyer had just brought big time boxing back to Ireland. Fight fans were riding on the crest of boxing tsunami never mind wave as the Neilstown boxer had provided arena fight nights and enticed RTÉ to the domestic fight game.
After a brilliant night against the Brendan Ingle-trained Esham Pickering, Dunne had claimed the European title in front of a sold out Point and brought further big cards to the famous venue in defences against Yersin Zhailauov and Reidar Walstad, both of which played out on the national airwaves.
The good times were not back, they were here for the first time and those enjoying them were more than aware that the new found positive state of affairs relied heavily Dunne’s continued success.
Hence that real air of worry when the EU champion and Dunne’s mandatory rode into town with a deep ‘I mean business’ stare, a stare that would have looked at home in a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western – and with the dark stubble to match.
Some tried to reassure with the ‘but who has he fought?’ retort when the fact the Spaniard, whose real ring moniker was ‘La Sensacion’, had knocked out 13 of his 16 previous foes – with all of those stoppages coming before four rounds had passed – was raised.
However, despite most holding hope and praying Dunne would out-skill the banger, there was a sense one way or the other that ‘bleedin’ Mini Tyson’, who was flanked at the presser by Belfast manager Pat Magee, was going to be a massive storyline in the Bernard Dunne career.
And so it turned out that way, although it made for quick reading. The Alicante native turned out Dunne’s lights and turned a raucous Point into a mourge in just 86 seconds.
It looked a ‘that’s all she wrote’ moment. Martinez would ride off into the sunset with his title only to be seen again on Reeling in the Years.
Yet August 25th 2007 wasn’t to be an Irish cameo for the knockout specialist and one of Spain’s greatest ever fighters.
The reigning European champion would not only develop a relationship with the Irish fight fan, but would play an important part in the history of the sport here. Now Eric Donovan is praying there could be another Irish chapter in what would be an amazing Martinez book.
After the Dunne reverse, the fighter that looked indestructible in Dublin was set to fight Wayne McCullough in Belfast only to miss weight. He was instead outpointed by The Boxing Bin Man Rendall Munroe and lost his title.
He was back fighting on Irish cards in 2008, twice trading leather at the National Stadium before another reverse to the then Frank Maloney-promoted Munroe.
After another defeat, this time to Takalani Ndlovu in a world title eliminator in South Africa and a quick Spanish rebuild, ‘Mini Tyson’ was back in Dublin in a European title fight.
Much to the delight of Irish fight fans, the hard hitting, humble, even shy, previously promotionaly hard-done-by young fighter won back the blue belt beating Arsen Martirosyan in September of 2010.
The man first seen three years earlier on these shores then played another major role in Irish boxing history. Possibly the most respected, even loved, away fighter to fight on these shores vacated the strap so we could have the first ever all Irish European title fight.
The now 34 year old, stepped aside so Paul Hyland and Willie Casey could give us a memorable night in Limerick. The winner, which turned out to be ‘Big Bang’ Casey, was to defend against Kiko, who by now was on first name terms with Irish fight fans, live on RTÉ.
However, the Limerick fighter felt a chance to fight Gullerimo Rigondeaux was too good to turn down and the Limerick-Alicante scrap never materialised.
The fighter who has shown ping pong ball bouncebackability looked set to wave goodbye to Irish fights for good that point, yet he had more significant roles to play in a somewhat gritty Irish boxing script.
Martinez won the belt for a third time when stopping Jason Booth in early 2011 and, with Carl Frampton now emerging as a genuine name and talent, the pair became linked.
A back and forth between the teams and, at times, even the fighters played out in front of the press and by late 2012 the pair had agreed to fight. It was perfect, the man who destroyed Dunne against Ireland’s rising star.
Martinez’s previous, his familiarity with the Irish fight fan and the fact he had the European title made him the perfect opponent.
Come February 2013, Kiko Martinez was the conduit Frampton ran through to become a star name. The Belfast fighter, who would keep big time Irish boxing alight through darker times, became a bill-topping European champion who was in the world title conversation with a win over a man who had once severely dented Dunne’s career.
Surely, surely, surely, this was the final chapter for the Spaniard never mind the final Irish story to relay about him, but amazingly not so.
The fighter, who cried post-fight when talking to Irish press after a Belfast small hall win ahead of his clash with Frampton, signed with middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez and went on the most sensational of runs to bank real success – and by all accounts money for the first time in his career.
The little powerhouse somehow got a shot a IBF world champion and genuine Frampton target Jhonathan Romero and became the world champ in fitting knockout fashion.
He then defended the title with two impressive knockout wins over Jeffrey Matheubela and Hosumi Hasegawa and low and behold was back in the Irish spot light again as a rematch with Frampton was made.
In September of 2014, Martinez was back in Ireland, back in Belfast, and back in the ring with Frampton.
This time Martinez entered the ring in a purpose built stadium on the Titanic Slipway with the IBF title paraded proudly by his entourage.
Again the Spanish slugger was a vital character in another Irish fighting storyline.
A points win – during which Martinez’s earned massive respect for biting down on his gumshield when a stoppage looked inevitable to fight back despite being well down on the scorecards – for Frampton it paved the way for the Belfast fighter to cement his status as one of our greatest by unifying and moving up in weight to become a two weight world champ.
Not only has the ‘bleedin Mini Tyson’ entertained Irish fights, he probably has been the most respected and even influential away fighter to trade leather in Ireland. He has been a pivotal player in our recent history and if Eric Donovan has his way there could be one final chapter to the sensational La Sensacion Irish story.