12 April 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Bernard Dunne made a winning return to the ring on Saturday night, the Irish super-bantamweight outpointing the awkward and durable Felix Machado over ten action-packed rounds before a raucous crowd in Castlebar, County Mayo.
The fight was scored 100-90 in Dunnes favour but it was far closer than that, with Machado causing the Dubliner all sorts of problems throughout.
Indeed, both men ended the bout with bloodied faces, after clashing heads on a number of occasions during an always competitive contest. Dunne also later revealed that he damaged his right hand in the very first round, hindering his ability to throw bombs.
But even though Dunne undoubtedly looked a little ring rusty in what was, after all, his first outing since losing his European title to Kiko Martinez last year, he consistently landed the cleaner and heavier punches.
Indeed, on the evidence of this fight, which will have done him the world of good after his eight-month layoff, he will, after his various injuries heal, soon be ready to seek out either a rematch with Martinez or, indeed, the man who subsequently dethroned the Spaniard as European champion, Rendell Munroe.
However, Dunne, being the self-critical perfectionist that he is, will doubtless first take a look back at his display against Machado, for it didnt all go according to plan.
He began slowly but deliberately, taking his time, heeding the advice of his corner to remain patient and he boxed impressively in the first. But the threat of a clash of heads quickly became apparent with Machados southpaw stance causing the first of many collisions.
Still, Dunne moved purposefully in round two, with his jab and left hook both becoming increasingly prominent. As Dunner’s trainer Harry Hawkins quite rightly pointed out during a ringside exchange with one of his fellow cornermen, their fighter was “warming up a wee bit”.
In the third, a cut – undoubtedly caused by yet another clash of heads – opened up above Machados right eye. Dunne now had a target and he hit it relentlessly from then on.
Dunne was in command and he swaggered back to his corner at the end of the fourth. Perhaps that was a bit unwarranted and unnecessary but he was unquestionably showing signs of shaking off that ring rust.
However, his momentum was halted in the very next round, when, after another impressive onslaught, one which had left Machado looking quite unsteady on his feet, the pairs heads collided once more. Crucially, it was Dunne who came off worst this time around.
Machado pressed forward and definitely had the better of the action in the sixth and seventh. It was by no means clear-cut but Dunne was no longer dominant and his workrate had dropped significantly.
However, he lifted himself in the eight and landed a number of big shots which rocked Machado. The spring had returned to his step.
Machados response was, unsurprisingly, to try to spoil and he was warned for use of the head in the ninth. But Dunne could not be deterred and he really went to work on the cut above Machados eye. The red stream which had been trickling down the right-hand side of the Venezuelan’s face had now become a river.
Machado appeared there for the taking in the tenth but Dunne eased off, seemingly content to coast his way to victory. The crowd bayed for a knockout (the blood had already been forthcoming!) but it was not to be.
Dunne took the clever option and stayed on the outside and away from Machado’s increasingly desperate haymakers. One could hardly fault the Irishman for erring on the side of caution. And besides, in his first appearance since being knocked out by Martinez, he had gone ten rounds with a former World Champion and won clearly. He had set out what he wanted to achieve. All things considered, it was job done.