Boxing

D-Day beckons for Dunne

04.10.06 - Brian Peters Promotions and Hunky Dory present European Championship Boxing. Bernard Dunne V Esham Pickering for the European Super Bantamweight title at the Point, Dublin on November 11th. The acid test has arrived for Bernard Dunne and what a night it promises to be. The unbeaten Dubliner headlines a historic night of boxing at the Point on November 11th when he looks to claim the European super bantamweight title from England's Esham Pickering.

Dunne has racked up 21 straight victories to date as a pro and for the most part it has been plain sailing for the charismatic 26-year-old. With Pickering in the opposite corner though Dunne looks set for the fight of his life in a match that will split the experts right down the middle.

It's also a fight that will create history as for the first time ever a Dubliner will get to fight for a European title in his home town. The last man from the capital to challenge for a European title was Steve Collins. He lost out on a close points decision to Italy's Sumbu Kalambay when he challenged for the middleweight belt on away soil back in 1992.

Collins is one of 8 Irishmen who have come up short in European title challenges in the past. The other six are brothers Noel and Eamonn Magee, Des Rea, Sam Storey, Damaen Kelly, Billy Kelly, Brian Magee and Mick Leahy.

Only four Irishmen have held European title's. That exclusive club is made up of Barry McGuigan, Rinty Monaghan, Ray Close and Charlie Nash. Bernard Dunne is now attempting to become the fifth member of the club.

One man who knows all about winning a European title is Esham Pickering. The 30-year-old Newark native has long been one of celebrated trainer Brendan Ingle's star pupils. He hit the headlines in 2004 when he claimed the European title with an impressive win over Italy's Vincenzo Gigliotti. Pickering went on to enjoy an almost two year reign as Europe's premier super bantamweight.

However that reign came to an end last October when he was controversially outpointed by fellow English man Michael Hunter in an epic encounter. Despite sending Hunter to the canvas on two occasions early in the fight the heavy handed Pickering was eventually deemed the loser on a majority decision. Two of the three judges voted for Hunter by the narrowest of margins while the third could not split them at all and declared the fight a draw.

It's a decision that still rankles with Pickering. "I still feel I won that fight and it's held up my career. I wanted a rematch but Hunter's gone in another direction. Now I've a chance to get back to where I want to be by beating Bernard."

Hunter went on to make 3 successful defences of the title but relinquished the belt before a rematch with Pickering could be negotiated. Instead the Hartlepool fighter will now challenge for the IBF world title in his hometown on November 10th, the night before Dunne and Pickering clash at the Point.

Pickering knows that a win over Dunne will set up a lucrative rematch with Hunter. "I'm sorry to tell the Irish fans this but it's a case of when and not if I beat Bernard, and once I do I want a rematch with Michael Hunter. Hopefully he can go and win the IBF title and then that will make it a World title fight but if he doesn't than I'd be happy to defend my European title against him because I want to set the record straight between us."

"No offence to Bernard because I think he's a good fighter and alongside myself and Hunter we're the best three in Europe but I'm so hungry to get my European title back and I won't be leaving Dublin without it. I just think I'll have too much of everything for Bernard on the night."

Pickering is trained by Dublin native Brendan Ingle, the legendary trainer who guided Prince Naseem Hamed from childhood and turned him into a world champion. Ingle has also trained world champions Johnny Nelson and Junior Witter and he's determined that Pickering will be his next world champion.

"Esham has all the talent in the world. He lost out on a world title years ago because he lacked experience," said Ingle referring to Pickering's defeat to the WBO world champion Mauricio Martinez back in 2000. "He's a much more complete fighter now and he proved that by becoming European champion. Now he's desperate to get his title back."

Sheffield based Ingle says he loves coming home to Dublin but is adamant that November's visit will be strictly a business trip. "I know I'm coming to Dublin with Esham to beat another Dubliner but this is a business and you've always got to look at it from that point of view. I've known Brian Peters for many, many years and we're great friends but in this business you're pals yesterday, fight today and pals again tomorrow. That's the way things work."

While Ingle is confident of guiding his man to victory he admits it's a risky fight. "There's no doubt this is a real 50 - 50 fight. But for me the difference is that my man's been there and been the champion so he knows what it takes. I'm not taking anything away from Bernard Dunne though. Everytime I see him he seems to be improving leaps and bounds so I know it won't be easy for us. There's a world title at stake for the winner so we can't afford to slip up. This is effectively a world title eliminator."

Even though it will be strictly business Ingle says he can't wait to get back to Dublin. "I love going home and especially for a fight. I love having the craic when I go home. The last time I was there for a big fight was with Naseem Hamed when he fought Manuel Medina at the Point."

"That was in August of 1996 but a few years before that Brian gave Naseem a fight in Dublin on the same bill as Wayne McCullough when they were both just starting out. Naseem and Wayne were the names on everyone's lips back then, now it's Esham and Bernard so it's a new generation and it's just terrific to see big time boxing back into Dublin again. The fans know their boxing there and they'll appreciate seeing two quality fighters at work."

As for a prediction Ingle is remaining tight-lipped. "All I'll say is that I'm going over there with Esham to win. If Dunne wins then I'll take my hat off to him but I'll tell you what either way it's going to be some fight."

Some fight indeed and the mere fact that Dunne's date with destiny takes place at the Point and not the National Stadium underlines the significance of the bout. The National Stadium has become almost a second home to Dunne since he first laced up a pair of boxing gloves but with a point to prove where better to head for than Ireland's premier entertainment venue, The Point.

Only four boxers have headlined at the Point before, Steve Collins, Lennox Lewis, Prince Naseem Hamed and Wayne McCullough and Dunne says he can't wait to become the fifth fighter to light up the world renowned venue.

"I'll be sad to say goodbye to the Stadium," admitted Dunne. "I've had some wonderful nights there in the past but I think for this fight we had to get somewhere bigger and well it doesn't get much bigger than the Point. It's probably the most significant fight in Ireland in over a decade so it seems a natural step to go there at this stage. I'm sure the atmosphere will be out of this world and I just can't wait for it now."

"I had said at the start of the year that I wanted to finish 2006 as the European Champion and Brian's worked very hard to deliver that opportunity for me. It's the next logical step for me in my career and I feel I'm ready for it."

When Dune's says he's ready he's not lying. The Dubliner has already been knuckling down to training and has promised to be in the shape of his life. "I've been training now for the past six weeks working on my fitness and physical condition, just preparatory stuff really so that I can concentrate on my boxing when I head up to my trainer Harry Hawkins in Belfast next week. I know Brian is looking at getting some serious sparring in for me so that I can be as sharp as possible for this one."

Dunne though is not about to underestimate Pickering. "Esham is an excellent fighter. I've seen him fight a few times now and I thought he was unfortunate to lose the title against Hunter. He sees me as a way of winning his title back but I have other ideas. Obviously this is for the European title so it's a new level for me but I'm confident I can step up to that level without any problems."

A number of fights have already been confirmed for the undercard including bouts featuring Jonathan "Thunderbolt" O' Brien, Andrew Wallace, Cork's Billy Walsh and Eugene Heagney. Further bouts will be confirmed shortly.

Tickets will be available from Ticketmaster.ie and all usual outlets and go on sale from 9am on Thursday (October 5th). The fight will be broadcast live on RTÉ.

Article posted on 04.10.2006



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