MICHAEL ROCHE, one of Bernard Dunne’s closest friends in boxing circles, said yesterday that the now former WBA world super bantamweight champion should not even consider retirement at this stage.
The five-time Irish champion and Ireland’s only Olympic boxer in Sydney in 2000 was at the O2 on Saturday night when Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym ended the Dubliner’s six-month reign as world champion.
“To be honest, it was like a death in the family,” the former Sunnyside star said. “I could not believe what I was seeing before my eyes.
“Sitting in the hotel lobby with Harry Hawkins (Dunne’s trainer) the night before the fight, defeat was totally out of the question.
“We talked about the game plan but obviously this plan eventually went out the window as we well know now.
“Bernard boxed so well for the first two rounds – he was brilliant – but there was a clash of heads in the third and I think he became a little bit disorientated.
“Then that first left hook came and that was the punch that did all the damage – forget about all the other punches – that would have knocked Mike Tyson down.
“Let’s hand it to Poonsawat, he is a very, very good boxer and, on Saturday night, he was just unbelievable. I don’t think we should take anything away from him. That was a great left hook thrown from a very short distance and it was right on target. Bernard did well to get up from it. It just shows you what heart he has.
“Up to that point everything was going to plan and I felt Bernard was boxing brilliantly. He won the first two rounds hands down.”
Roche spent some time with the Dunne family on Sunday before returning to Cork and he said Bernard has never been so low.
“So many people had turned up to support him at the O2 even with the economy the way it is and he felt that he let them down but he did not let anybody down,’’ Roche said.
“Just look at how many people stayed back after the fight. There was no mass exodus from the arena. Everyone was genuinely concerned about Bernard and then the way he stood there in the ring and apologised to everyone and thanked everyone shows the remarkable man he is.
“He is the people’s champion and right now he is at the top of his profession. That’s why I feel he should not even consider retirement because he has so much to offer. I know he will sit down with Harry (Hawkins) and Brian Peters and they will have a long talk about this one. They have a great relationship. Who knows, they might even consider moving up to featherweight.
“When Bernard was boxing at featherweight in the States he was knocking fellows out all over the place. I think he may have lost a little bit of that when he dropped down.
“Back then he was sparring with Rafael Marquez who has now moved up to featherweight – just think what a fight that would make.”
When Michael Roche qualified for the 2000 Olympics Bernard Dunne just missed out on qualification as a result of at least one dubious decision. As a result the Dubliner went to Sydney as a reserve.
When it became apparent that nobody was going to drop out and there would not be a place for him in the tournament, Dunne elected to stay on and spar with Roche.
“He was my sparring partner for the Olympics and we had a very good relationship,” Roche said. “Then when he won the world title he came to Cork where he was accorded a Civic Reception by the Lord Mayor and I was very proud of that.
“He was in my house then and when I came back from Dublin on Sunday there was a buzz around the park. Everyone wanted to know if Bernard was OK. He is still our champion.”
Meanwhile Andy Lee will be back in action in his native Limerick towards the end of November.
Promoter Brian Peters has confirmed the fight against an opponent yet to be decided. Lee was in the 02 on Saturday night as part of the RTÉ team.
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