Monday, March 23, 2009

Boxing Bulletin British Scene

Welcome to the first edition of the The Boxing Bulletin's new weekly column on British Boxing. Each Monday, Dave Oakes and Matt Chudley will bring you all the action involving British and Irish fighters over the previous weekend.

This week, the focus is on the memorable super-bantamweight scrap between Bernard Dunne and Ricardo Cordoba, as well as Ian Napa's European bantamweight title fight against France's Malik Bouziane

Dave and Matt will also be previewing upcoming bouts in a column that will appear later in the week.

Saturday March 21

High Drama in Dublin: Dunne Topples Cordoba

By Matt Chudley
Photo © Eoin Campbell, check out the rest of Eoin
Campbell's photos from the night's action here.

In outlasting Ricardo Cordoba through an all out war which saw both men downed on multiple occasions Bernard Dunne walked away with a portion of the *WBA super-bantamweight title, in what just may have been one of the most thrilling fights ever staged on Irish soil. The home fighter’s victory completed a great day for sports in Ireland as it came mere hours after the Irish Rugby team had captured their first grand slam since 1948.

Dunne, who entered the bout as a sizable underdog with the book-makers was also making his first return to the sold out O2 Arena in Dublin, since his lone professional defeat there in August of 2007. On that night, when the venue was known as The Point, Dunne was dropped twice by Spain’s Kiko Martinez, and failed to make it out of the first round.

Perhaps the memory of the Martinez fight still lingered in Dunne’s mind, as he came out in the first round holding his gloves uncharacteristically high. The Panamanian southpaw also began cautiously, mainly using a range finding jab to try and set up his straight left.

Dunne reverted to his natural stance in the second working behind a purposeful jab, with Cordoba still working the 1-2, jab-left attack.

In the third round, Dunne began to find a home for his left hook, and with 30 seconds remaining in the round, a perfectly placed hook sent Cordoba stumbling backwards across the ring, before landing on the canvas. The punch caught Cordoba, who was leaning in while throwing a right hand to the body, flush on the side of the jaw and lit a fire under the partisan crowd. Dunne jumped on the attack as soon as referee Hubert Earle had finished administering the count but there was not enough time left in the round to press home the advantage.

The interval gave the game Panamanian enough time to recover and showing his fighting spirit he was happy to engage his Irish opponent in the fourth round, but was still shipping left hooks. A head clash midway through the round left Dunne with a cut above his left eyebrow.

In the opening seconds of the fifth round, Cordoba touched down from what appeared at first to be a clean left hook to the head but referee Earle signaled that he believed it to have been a slip. Replays indicated, Cordoba’s lead right foot may have tripped over Dunne’s left, after the punch had landed.

Later in the round after a flush right hook staggered Dunne, Cordoba followed up with a barrage of punches along the ropes, culminating with a left-right combination that sent Dunne to the canvas. Dunne was up at the count of 3, and tried to battle his way out of trouble, but was put down again later in the round, this time from a sweetly placed right hook. He was up quickly though and after nodding that he was okay, managed to tie up Cordoba’s follow-up attack, and last out the remaining 35 seconds of the round.

During the next few rounds the action became scrappier though both boxers continued to favor the same punches which had provided them with knockdowns earlier in the fight. Perhaps showing that the pace of the contest was getting to him Cordoba stumbled when seemingly unforced a couple of times during the eighth round.

The steady pace continued into the ninth and tenth rounds, with the tiring Cordoba remaining steadfast in his determination to hang on to his WBA strap. Despite his condition appearing to waver slightly, the little Panamanian warrior used his size advantage to press Dunne up against the ropes, half catching him numerous times.

Midway through the eleventh round, with both fighters looking exhausted, but still battling hard, Dunne hurt Cordoba during an exchange in the middle of the ring. Dunne, who later learned that he was trailing on all three judge’s cards, immediately pursued Cordoba to the ropes and launched a steady flow of punches that sent Cordoba stumbling backwards along the ropes, crashing to the canvas near the corner.

Cordoba was up quickly, but looked like a beaten man. With plenty of time left in the round and realizing the end may be in sight Dunne continued his assault. Cordoba seemed too tired to keep his hands up or clinch effectively when in close, but bravely tried to fight back, before being put down again from another left hook.

At this point, it could well have been appropriate to call an end to the fight but Earle let the tough champ continue until another left hook sent him down for the final time. Without a count, the fight was waved off. The time was 2:59 of round eleven.

Cordoba stayed down for some time and was escorted from the ring on a stretcher. He was quickly taken to hospital for precautionary tests, which thankfully all turned up clear. It was a rough ending, to a brutal war of attrition that saw both men pushed to their limits. Undoubtedly we’ll be talking about this one again at the end of the year, when the FOTY debates heat up.

*The WBA’s super-bantamweight champion, Celestino Caballero was elevated to “Super” champion after his win over Steve Molitor in a title unification bout last year.

The undercard...

Middleweight Andy Lee returned to action for the first time in 10 months in what appeared to be a measured test against his former sparring partner Alexander Sipos, although didn’t seem that way when Lee was cut above the right eye in the first.

With the exception of the first and ninth rounds Lee used his ring generalship to keep the rugged Sipos at a distance and put the German down in the sixth with a perfectly placed right hook. There where a few hairy moments for Lee throughout the fight when Sipos managed to work his way in close; Lee showing that his defense on the inside is still rather suspect.

e-mail Matt Chudley

Friday March 20

Bouziane Claims Euro Title

By Dave Oakes

Malik Bouziane became the European bantamweight champion on Friday night with an emphatic points victory over Ian Napa. Bouziane controlled the pace early on with quick jabs and straight rights before darting out of range. That was a glimpse of things to come as he dominated the fight in that fashion until the final bell. The odds-on favourite Napa was never in the fight and despite a late surge, he never made an impression on the athletic Frenchman. The judges scores were 118-110, 117-111 and a bizarre 115-113.

Bouziane moves to 11-1 and would be better served defending his title for the time being. He showed good movement and speed but seems to lack power. Despite the one-sided nature of this bout, I can’t see Bouziane being a threat at world level and think he would struggle against a more aggressive style of opponent.

Napa, meanwhile, must look at going back down to either flyweight or super-flyweight to rebuild his career. It’s become clear that his lack of size will count against up at bantamweight.

The undercard...

Featherweight prospect Akaash Bhatia kept his undefeated record with a one round knockout of Elemir Rafael on a quiet undercard. Bhatia moves to 14-0 and must be moved into British title level before his career stagnates any further than it already has done in the past 12 months. A shot against British champion Paul Appleby or Commonwealth champion John Simpson must be the target for the amiable Londoner.

e-mail Dave Oakes