The wait is almost over for Bernard Dunne. Following a gruelling training camp that saw him sacrifice his Christmas the Neilstown man says he is in the shape of his life ahead of Saturday night’s acid test against former European champion, Noel Wilders.
Just over two years ago the Yorkshire fighter was King of Europe and he’s desperate to regain that status. Wilders knows that a win over Dunne this weekend would hand him a shot at the current European Super Bantamweight champion, Michael Hunter.
However, Dunne is just as keen to get his hands on Hunter’s belt and is determined that Wilders will not stand in his way as he goes in search of his nineteenth straight pro win.
The Dunne – Wilders bout is live on RTE 2 along with the chief support bout featuring Michael Gomez and Peter McDonagh in an Irish Lightweight title showdown.
“This should be some night of boxing,” said promoter Brian Peters. “You’ve got Bernard in the biggest test of his career and an undercard packed with names like Michael Gomez and Brian Magee not to mention exciting new talents like John O’ Donnell and Stephen Haughian.”
“RTE have been averaging over 230,000 viewers for each of Bernard’s fights to date and I’ve no doubt that anyone tuning in on Saturday night will be on the edge of their seats because where the likes of Dunne and Gomez are concerned excitement is guaranteed.”
While Dunne headlines against Wilders the fight of the night could prove to be the grudge match between Gomez and McDonagh. There is clearly no love lost between these two fighting men as was evident at last months press conference to announce the fight.
Both men wanted to start proceedings there and then so Friday’s weigh in and pre fight press conference at the Burlington Hotel (3PM) could prove almost as explosive as the fight itself.
McDonagh has added the world famous paranormalist Uri Geller to his team for what is clearly the biggest fight of his career. Geller has promised that McDonagh will arrive in Dublin with the same kind of intense mental focus Steve Collins enjoyed ahead of his famous upset win over Chris Eubank back in 1995.
Gomez says he’s not worried by the news that Geller is working with McDonagh. “Good luck to him because he’s going to need all the help he can get!” scoffed the Manchester-based Dubliner.
“I’m not sure Uri Geller will be of much use to him though because there won’t be any spoon’s in that ring for him to bend. The only thing I plan on bending is some of McDonagh’s ribs with my body punches!”
It’s a make or break fight for both men as Gomez looks to re-establish himself on the world scene while McDonagh looks to launch himself into the big time with the win of his career.
The stakes are just as high for Belfast super middleweight Brian Magee. The former Olympian and IBO World Champion faces Daniil Prakapsou in Dublin knowing that a win will secure a British and Commonwealth title shot against the unbeaten Carl Froch in March.
First though he has to get past Prakapsou, a Belarussian hard man who has never been stopped in his pro career.
Dublin heavyweight Colin Kenna is another man who will be looking to shine on the National Stadium show. Kenna (a brother of former Irish soccer international, Jeff) is targeting an Irish title fight with Mike Tyson’s conqueror, Kevin McBride, and is keen to whet the appetite of Irish fight fans for the bout.
A late addition to the quality card is John O’ Donnell. Born in London to Galway parents the classy southpaw sees this weekend’s fight against Zaid Bediouri as a “homecoming.”
“My parents are both from Galway,” explained O’Donnell. “I still have a lot of family over here and visit them all the time so to box in Ireland will be something special. A good few of them are planning to make the trip and turn out for me.”
The 20-year-old welterweight is unbeaten in eight fights and his manager, Mick Hennessy claims he is a better prospect than the much-hyped Amir Khan.
O’ Donnell arrives in Dublin fresh from a sensational stoppage win in London last weekend which was screened by Sky Sports.
Another 20-year-old on the bill is Lurgan’s unbeaten, Stephen Haughian. The Belfast-based light welterweight faces London’s Duncan Cottier as he looks to extend his unbeaten record to 4-0.
New pro Andrew Wallace completes the weekend’s line-up. A top class amateur Wallace made the decision to turn professional last year and big things are expected from the classy featherweight.
Wallace made a successful pro debut in Florida last year but has now decided to link up with Belfast trainer, Alan Wilton. The former Caribbean Games gold medallist and English ABA finalist takes on French based Algerian, Adjib Guessab as he looks to continue his rise through the pro ranks.
RTE’s live coverage begins at 10PM on Saturday night on RTE 2 and continues until 12.30.