Bernard Dunne says Eddie Bolger void can be filled

Bernard Dunne is confident there are plenty of coaches good enough to fill the void in Irish boxing’s high performance unit after the loss of Eddie Bolger to Germany.

Bernard Dunne says Eddie Bolger void can be filled

Bolger informed the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) of his intention to step down from his assistant role under Zaur Antia earlier this week after accepting an offer to be top man at the German centre of excellence in Heidelberg.

Kellie Harrington, who benefited from his coaching, described herself as ‘gutted’ and Bolger has also worked with Joe Ward, Stephen Donnelly and David Oliver Joyce. He was one of three coaches on duty at the last Olympic Games in Rio, alongside Antia and John Conlan.

“It was a great opportunity for Eddie,” said Dunne. “The main thing is Zaur staying and that is a big, big plus. It’s one thing losing a coach, it’s another thing losing a head coach. We’ve got a couple of coaches coming through who will fill that void.

“It was too good of an opportunity for Eddie to turn down and we’ve got coaches who have left the High Performance unit over the last four or six years who could probably step in, who could be encouraged, nurtured and developed to eventually be part of that unit.”

Bolger will be replaced but not before the IABA fills the newly-created post of high performance director. The hope is that that appointee, who may come from inside or outside boxing, will be in place before the European Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine in June.

The IABA has now lost two highly-respected coaches in the space of 18 months given Billy Walsh’s switch to the USA late in 2015, but the exodus from the amateur ranks has been more pronounced inside the ring.

A spate of talented fighters have turned to the pro ranks either side of the 2016 Games. The movement is being spearheaded by Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes, all of whom fight this month.

Dunne did all that 16 years ago.

His first pro bout was held in a tiny room at the Feather Falls Casino in California and he undertook another 13 Stateside before making the decision to return to Ireland with his wife. Dunne eventually earned the title of world champion but he knows how low the odds are for those following his path.

“It’s a small percentage. Probably the top one per cent make a living,” he estimated.

“Everybody does it to hopefully get the chance and, when you get the chance, you have to take it. That’s the thing about boxing: you could get a phone call that Ricardo Cordoba wants to fight you all of a sudden, you take it and you’re champion of the world.

“Sometimes you get that phone call and you’ve let yourself go and you’re not in shape and that chance passes you by. And that can happen in boxing. You get chances that you didn’t expect to get and you’ve got to be ready to take them.”

Taylor, Conlan and Barnes have turned professional on the back of stellar amateur careers. They are backed by notable promoters including Top Rank, Eddie Hearn and Matthew Macklin but no-one has come close to the hype and attention generated by Conor McGregor.

The prospect of a flight with Floyd Mayweather has been a tiresome source of debate for the last year but Dunne believes the match-up makes a lot of sense for his fellow Dubliner who he believes would make more money and take less punishment than would be the case in any UFC contest.

“Do I think he’d win? I’m not so sure about that,” said Dunne. “He’s a good boxer for UFC. There’s a difference. Look at all his fights and his movement in and out is really good and he’s got that big, big left hand and he shoots it straight down the middle. But he always works off his feet.

“He is stepping in and stepping out. Most UFC guys have no experience of standing on their feet in boxing. Conor wins all his fights that way so he has really brought boxing to UFC.

“You have got to admire what he has done. He has brought UFC to a whole new level and done that single-handedly.”

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