In a monumental day for Irish sport, Bernard Dunne became the new WBA super bantamweight champion of the world at the O2 Arena in Dublin.
Dunne produced a sensational performance to defeat Ricardo Cordoba by technical knockout at the end of the eleventh round to drive the 9,000 strong crowd delirious.
Cordoba, who was one inch taller and five years younger that Dunne, looked composed as he entered the Lion’s den that was the O2 Arena at the start of the fight. In the first round, the two fighters started at a fast pace, each trying to eek out an advantage. Dunne didn’t look overawed and brought the fight to the champion in the early rounds.
In the third round a left hook from Dunne put Cordoba staggering back on the canvas and onto the seat of his pants. The Panamanian survived the count and lasted the round but Dunne was energized and the crowd went ballistic.
In the fourth Dunne remained patient and caught Cordoba with another huge left hook that had Cordoba hurt. Just as it looked like Dunne might take over, a clash of heads slowed him down and opened a cut above the left eye.
In the fifth Dunne was floored not once but twice. The first knockdown was from a left right combination and the second came from a stinging right hook. The Dubliners legs were wobbly but he somehow got through to the bell.
In the sixth Dunne recovered well and might even have sneaked the stanza. The seventh saw Cordoba tire and Dunne regain confidence. In the eighth Dunne continued to come forward and caused a cut in the champion’s right eye.
In the ninth Dunne peppered Cordoba with two right hands that weakened the champ, and another crunching right at the end of the round highlighted the Dubliner's dominance. In the tenth Cordoba came back into it and had Dunne on the back foot, and it was anybody's fight.
In the eleventh Bernard Dunne put Cordoba on the canvas three times and became champion of the world after the performance of a lifetime. There was some anxiety in the ring afterwards as Cordoba was static on the canvas and was taken out of the O2 on a stretcher, but it is believed that he was suffering from severe dehydration.
"It's ours, it's ours. I said during the week, the one thing I said was believe," said a delighted Dunne. "Tonight I proved I have got strength."
On the undercard, Andy Lee (17-1) beat Alexander Sipos (19-6-2) on points (99-91) on the undercard at the O2 Arena in Dublin this Saturday night.
The Limerick native was meant to headline the Erin go Brawl II card at the WaMu Theater in Madison Square Garden on March 16, but the cancellation of that show saw Brian Peters parachute him as a late star addition to the card at the O2.
Lee and Sipos have some previous, with the Limerick man having sparred the German last year in Austria during training camp.
In an eventful first round, Lee landed a beautiful straight left but was caught with a left hook shortly after. Sipos stung Lee again with an overhand right that opened up a cut on the 24-year-old’s right eye – the same eye that has kept Lee out of the ring for eight months – that acted as a stern warning to the punching potential of the 34-year-old.
Once Lee settled into the fight, he kept Sipos at bay by using his height advantage and long right jab. In round four Lee got caught up in the corner, but on the whole he was jabbing, moving and winning the rounds.
In the sixth Lee’s persistence paid off when he floored Sipos with a short powerful right hand. Sipos survived the round, but Lee was controlling proceedings and well ahead on the scorecards.
However, Lee got complacent in the ninth and tenth and got sucked into a brawl, taking some heavy shots that might have hurt him, especially in the ninth. Despite getting caught by a few more overhand rights, Lee got through to the final bell and took the fight on referee Emile Tiedt’s scorecard 99-91.
“It was tough fight, and I earned my stripes. They are not all going to be easy knockouts. He is a hard man and I know I had a hard fight. I expected it to go the distance and it did,” said Lee after the fight.
Prior to that, Katie Taylor showed just why she is such a star in the amateur ranks with a skillful display against Pan American champion Caroline Barry. Sharp punching combinations and impressive power shots saw the World Champion from Bray dominate her opponent over the course of the four round exhibition.