Six months ago, in front of a fervent Dublin crowd, Bernard Dunne rose from the canvas twice and had his man down on five occasions before the WBA super-bantamweight title became official property of the Neilstown native. Now the hard work starts.
Speaking at a specially arranged media workout in his adopted Belfast residence at the Holy Trinity BC, Dunne outlined the plan for victory while discussing training regimes and the man who intends to take his title home – Thailand’s Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym on September 25 at Dublin’s O2. Putting brief YouTube clips aside, the away fighter arrives with a sense of the unknown; so what do Bernard and trainer Harry Hawkins actually know of this mystery foe?
“To be honest Harry has probably watched him more than I have,” the champion admitted, “he’s a fantastic fighter, very aggressive but I have height and reach advantages and while he does what he’s good at I’ll do what I’m good at, so I’m ready for him.
“He’s a combination puncher, throws a lot and very right-hand orientated so he may come out and try to do a Kiko [Martinez] and be very aggressive early on; we’ll be ready for that though and remember that there’s not many world champions who fight their No. 1 contender in the first fight.”
Without rehashing the particulars of Dunne’s 86-second collapse against the iron fists of Martinez, it’s something that will probably be mentioned whenever the Dubliner steps into the ring. He insists, however, that the defeat is firmly in the past.
“I think we perfectly demonstrated in the Cordoba fight in the way we rose above the knockdowns and came back that the Kiko fight is way behind us now,” Dunne explained. “When Cordoba dropped me I reacted differently from when Martinez put me on my ass, because then I tried to fight fire with fire after I was hurt, when there was no need too. Harry is always making sure I learn from that whole experience and like any trapped animal I tried to blast my out of the situation but against Cordoba I blocked the shots and got out of the round when I was hurt.
“It was all about focusing and the recovery between rounds was phenomenal; I felt strong and fresh and that was down to the conditioning I received from Michael [McGurn] and Alec [Doherty].”
Doherty was on hand to display some of the punishing medicine ball techniques he uses to rip Bernard’s midriff into shape, while McGurn is an experienced fitness expert who takes control of things in Dublin. Dunne explained some of the gruelling physical exercises he is now put through and my worry is that such a regime, coupled with ring wars, could burn him out prematurely.
Constant pressure training for 25-30 minutes, changes of routine to shock the body into responding and circuits of wrestling, sprinting and pounding the torso makes Dunne grimace while relating his new methods to those on hand.
“I train three times a day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, which has just been cut down to three days as the fight approaches,” he documented. “The mindset is different now as before I was chasing down a guy for the belt and he was the only thing for me to focus on; but now I’m that one guy and I have a whole load of others queuing up behind me to take my belt away.
“It’s an added pressure but one that I’m enjoying because we’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Olivier Lontchi is a class sparring partner and he’s very similar to the Thai, plus he’ll watch DVDs and study fighters so he’s ready to bring something new. I’m not going back to the level that I was at for Cordoba; I need to continue moving that next step all the time and pushing myself to new limits.”
Dunne paid homage to the fantastic supporters that roared him to success in Dublin and called it “an all-Ireland” crowd, before concluding, “We’ve won the belt now so let’s have some fun with it.”
Lontchi, who recently failed in a bid to topple rising superstar Juan Manuel Lopez, has been brought in to offer quality sparring and the man who now resides in Canada admitted he doesn’t offer his services as a sparring partner on a regular basis.
“Usually I would say no but maybe I can get myself in line for a shot at Bernard’s title, sometime in the future,” grinned the man originally from Cameroon. “Before I came over here I thought that the European fighters were not that good but I’ve learned a lot and I can see there are some classy fighters. Bernard is a very good boxer and when he stops moving he can hit hard – I have absolutely no doubt he will beat Poonsawat.”
After studying tapes of the challenger, Olivier has been not only been replicating his style but preparing Dunne for the Thai’s big right hand which he sees as a potential danger punch. While the physical conditioning work is vitally important, so is the expert knowledge and tactical nous of trainer Harry Hawkins who quietly formulates the battle plan away from the limelight. Gauging his insight into how things might play out threw up some interesting responses.
“Look, the Thai’s not interim champion for nothing and his stamina levels are fantastic but he’s also a good technical boxer with good head movement,” said Harry. “This isn’t just a bull coming to fight but a harder target to pin down and a resilient boxer. Lontchi is very fast and has good head movement so while he’s here for three weeks we are going to use him effectively and find any chink in Poonsawat’s armour that we can exploit.”
So will Harry put his neck on the line for a prediction?
“Oh Bernard wins no doubt,” he responds. “It doesn’t matter how and you train for 12 rounds but if he was to catch him and stop him then I would delighted. The Martinez loss was a line in the sand and we could have been getting too arrogant, dropped our guard, who knows? To move to world level we needed to get stronger and after Kiko it gave us the wake-up call that was needed.
“The conditioning ensured Bernard could survive against Cordoba and the O2 crowd will intimidate the Thai opponent I can assure you; that’s already a couple of rounds in the bank to Bernard.”
While I agree with the general consensus that Dunne will win I feel he may have to overcome a few rocky patches and possibly a trip to the canvas in order to do so. The 28-year-old Thai, who was born Prakorb Odomna, but now uses a sponsorship pseudonym like so many Asian boxers, has only been beaten once in 39 fights with 27 opponents removed early.
The sole loss came in Germany, where the old cliché assures us you have to knock out out your opponent to get a draw, and I don’t foresee the crowd overly disturbing his rhythm. One fact that arose during this workout was that no Irish fighter has lost the world title in his first defence. Bernard Dunne will hope that trend continues come fight night.