5 January 2009 – By David Boyle
When Bernard Dunne came back to Ireland as a professional there were huge expectations placed upon his shoulders.
A string of impressive wins in the States had catapulted the Dubliner into the public eye back in his homeland.
A lot has happened since then, with a string of victories and the heavy defeat at the hands of Kiko Martinez. Dunne regrouped with three solid wins in 2008, the last coming in Castlebar over Cristian Faccio.
Now rumours are rife that 2009 is the year that Bernard Dunne gets a world title shot.
In the hope that this comes to pass, this article analyses Dunnes chances against the division’s best.
The super-bantamweight division is one of the best in the sport at the moment. The best, I feel, is Juan Manuel Lopez, the WBO champion. The 25-year-old from Puerto Rico has a 91 percent knockout ratio and is undefeated at 24-0 (22KO) and in his last three fights he was won in the first round.
Then there is WBA and IBF champion Celestino Caballera, from Panama. The 32-year-old is formidable and has a 66 percent knockout ratio, 31-2-0 (22KO). Standing 5’11” with a huge reach, he is a formidable force between the ropes. He beat Steve Molitor to win the title by fourth-round TKO.
The other champion in the division is WBC beltholder Toshikai Nishioka, who holds a record of 33-4-3 (20KO). The Tokyo native has mostly campaigned in Asia. His best win has come against Genaro Garcia in January of this year. His last fight out of Japan was in 2006 beating Jose Alonso in Las Vegas, in the fourth round.
In my eyes, Nishioka is the one to go after; Lopez and Caballera would be a higher standard of competition.
Dunnes career since he came back for the USA has been a predominantly positive experience, but he has not fought the toughest of opposition. Names like Walstad, Jailauov and Wilders are sparring sessions compared to the Top 3 in the division. That said, we have seen that Dunne is capable of beating the best. His performance against Esham Pickering, to win the European title, was particularly impressive.
Southpaw Nishioka is a fighter who is beatable and has already been beaten. A step up in class before a title shot would be ideal, and would give Dunne an idea of the standard out there. Going straight into a world title shot could be a huge risk and could throw a major spanner in the works.
Steve Molitor would be a huge test but one I feel Bernard could win, or even a fight with the rugged Daniel Ponce De Leon would be an attractive proposition. What is for sure is that Dunne has options. A rematch with Martinez or a clash with the incumbent European champion Rendell Munroe would also make big box office.
A move up in weight might also be a possibility.
Its all out there for Bernard Dunne, but he may have to travel to get it. He must go for it in 2009, though. Its a huge step up, but one I feel he is ready for.