DUBLIN, IRELAND – The EMT crews from Medilink Ambulance Service assigned to Ireland’s National Stadium Saturday night had a busier-than-anticipated evening.
First, a would-be gatecrasher hoping to save himself the 50-Euro price of admission attempted to scale a back wall, fell off, and broke both legs.
This unfortunate fellow, it should be noted, had merely been engaging in a time-honored Dublin custom dating back (that we know of) to the time of the 1972 Muhammad Ali-Blue Lewis fight at Croke Park, when nearly as many spectators came in over the barricades as actually paid their way through the turnstiles.
Not an hour later, a burly security guard working the door between the television truck parked outside and the RTE TV crew’s broadcast position attempted to deny admission to Steve Collins.
The former super-middleweight champion was supposed to be working the telecast of the Bernard Dunne-David Martinez main event. Collins had left his credential inside, and the bouncer claimed he hadn’t recognized him.
The security man more or less confirmed this when he made the mistake of interrupting the heated debate by punching Collins in the chest. The Celtic Warrior responded with a left uppercut to the jaw, scattering a few bouncer teeth here and there.
Collins, in any case ripped open his left hand against his antagonist’s incisors, and after emergency care by the ringside physician, Dr. Joe McKeever, had to be whisked away to the James Connolly Casualty Center for antibiotic and tetanus shots, as well as five stitches on his paw.
“It was the same as if he’d been bitten,” explained Dr. McKeever, who ordered the precautionary trip to the hospital. “A human bite can be a filthy, nasty thing.”
Collins had to be replaced on the TV set by 1992 Irish Olympic gold medalist Michael Carruth. And Brian Peters’ seven-bout card had barely started.
Many boxing insiders felt going in that Martinez had the style and skills to give Dunne more trouble than he’d bargained for in their featherweight bout, but it quickly became apparent that the undefeated Irishman was more than adequate on both counts.
Not only was Dunne far quicker, he also possessed a significant reach advantage. Martinez, who had opened up attempting to stay outside Dunne’s jabbing range, couldn’t land his own without rushing in to closer quarters, and paid for it each time he did.
“I have pretty quick hands myself,” said a rueful Martinez afterward, but they were no match for Dunne’s. Dunne (now 21-0) was able to use his superior speed and defensive skills to land whenever Martinez got near, without danger of any significant retaliation.
After a few rounds Dunne was so confident that he frequently dropped his hands to his side, daring Martinez to hit him, and if he gave the appearance of taunting his overmatched opponent, he compounded it by jawing at the frustrated Albuquerque boxer, and eventually drew a stern warning from Belfast referee David Irving.
“He should have minded his own business,” said Dunne later. “It was a private conversation.”
As the bout wore on, Dunne landed a multitude of hard right-hand body shots, and was landing his jab so effectively that Martinez’ right eye was beginning to close. By the eighth it had become so one-sided that Martinez trainer Sergio Chavez climbed up onto the ring apron, signaling Irving to stop it. The end came 57 seconds into the round. Martinez, now 15-2-1, accepted the defeat gracefully.
It was the fifth fight in nine months for Dunne since relocating back to Ireland. Peters plans to give the young fighter the rest of the summer off, and is pointing for a possible title challenge to European 122-pound champ Michael Hunter in the fall.
A more immediate reward could be forthcoming for Jim Rock, the 34-year-old Dubliner who regained the Irish middleweight championship with a seventh-round stoppage of late substitute Kevin Phelan to set the stage for a collision with countryman John Duddy Sept. 29 at New York’s Madison Square Garden Theatre.
Rock (27-4) had previously owned the Irish title, but relinquished it last year, allowing English-born Matthew Macklin to fight for the vacant championship. Macklin returned the favor. Scheduled to fight for the British title next month, he gave up the Irish crown, allowing Rock and Lee Murtagh to battle for it on the Dublin show.
On the eve of the bout, Murtagh fell out in a contretemps over the contracted weight. (Both he and Rock were safely inside the 160-pound divisional limit, but both boxers were marginally over the 159 stipulated in the contract.) The dispute was resolved, so to speak, when Peters had Murtagh evicted from his hotel room Friday night, and summoned Phelan, whose credentials were somewhat suspect on at least two counts:
One was that his 16-fight pro record included six losses, including one just a week earlier in Glasgow, where he had been outpointed by Barry Lee. The other was the sum of his Irish ancestry consisted of one great-grandfather born in Tipperary, which might have qualified him to play soccer for Ireland in the Jack Charlton era but probably wouldn’t have been sufficient to claim the title had he won it.
Boxing Union of Ireland president Mel Christle decided that the bout would be “provisionally recognized as being for the vacant Irish middleweight title, pending Phelan providing the necessary documentation (verifying) his qualifications to contest an Irish championship.”
Rock, in any case, rendered the point moot with his workmanlike win. Although Phelan battled gamely in the early stages, a fifth round Rock uppercut that sent blood spattering from his nose appeared to take the fight right out of him.
By the sixth, Rock was hammering Phelan so effortlessly that at the conclusion of the round, referee Sean Russell approached Phelan’s corner with the warning that Kevin was taking an awful lot of punches and that he was considering stopping it.
Manager/trainer George Carmen successfully implored the referee for “one more round,” and, said Russell, “he was doing all right, but then right before the end of the round he got hit with a good uppercut. I looked over at the corner and (Carmen) was giving me the sign to stop it.”
The stoppage and the bell arrived almost simultaneously, although we’d probably give the nod to the bell.
Regaining a designation he has previously held on two previous occasions could be of more than slight consequence to Rock. Duddy manager, Eddie McLoughlin, was in attendance in Dublin, as was Irish Ropes matchmaker Jim Borzell, both with an eye toward making a Rock-Duddy fight for the Irish title at the Theatre this fall.
Duddy first has to get by Freddy Cuevas in his co-featured bout on the Cotto-Malignaggi undercard next Saturday night, and may fight a tune-up underneath Hasim Rahman-Oleg Maskaev in August as well.
“I’d be delighted to come over there,” said Rock. “John Duddy seems to be very much in demand at the moment, and I haven’t got too much time left, so it would be a big occasion if it comes off.”
Another new Irish champion who will definitely be fighting in America is Oisin Fagan, who added the Irish 140-pound title to the Oklahoma state lightweight championship he already owned.
Fagan, a Dublin-born Oklahoma schoolteacher, went to the US on a soccer scholarship and has only been boxing for the past three years. He was originally to have fought for Peter McDonagh’s Irish lightweight championship on the Dublin bill.
McDonagh, you might recall, won that title under somewhat controversial circumstances back in January when his apparently superior opponent Michael Gomez abruptly quit in the fifth round after winning the first four. McDonagh had lost four in a row going into that fight, but had prepared for Gomez with the assistance of the spoon-bending Israeli psychic Uri Geller.
Amid reports of a betting coup, Christle initiated a full-scale investigation, but, unable to prove wrongdoing, released the purses of both contestants.
Citing a knee injury, McDonagh withdrew less than two weeks before his scheduled date with Fagan, prompting Fagan to wonder “Why didn’t he just get Uri Geller to fix it?”
Peters managed to have the Irish light welterweight disinterred, and procured Jeff Thomas, who was Dutch-born and lives in England, but does have an Irish mother, as an opponent.
Fagan is a busy action fighter, and while it lasted he simply wore Thomas down with his onslaught. Thomas went down for the first time in the fifth, a delayed reaction after Fagan caught him with a left hook to the ribs followed by at least three more less lethal punches.
Another knockdown in the seventh suggested that the end wasn’t far away.
“I used that Ricky Hatton move,” recalled Fagan, demonstrating a quick one-two followed by a quick sidestep to the left and a left to the body, fight up the middle.
“That punch tore the guts right out of him,” said Fagan.
Thomas sagged to the canvas, but managed to struggle to his feet to beat referee Emil Tiedt’s count. When Fagan moved back in and landed another right, Thomas listed slowly toward the floor yet again, and Tiedt halted the bout at 2:21 of the round.
The school term at the Columbus Elementary School ended just a week ago, and Fagan plans to spend the summer vacation at his Portmarnock home before returning to Oklahoma. The new Irish champion is now 16-3, Thomas 9-6-1.
In an earlier bout, Duddy’s erstwhile teammate and sometime sparring partner, middleweight James Moore improved to 7-0 with a fourth-round TKO of Frenchman Salaheddine Sarhani (2-7). A three-time Irish national amateur champion fighting as a pro in his homeland for the first time, Moore punished Sarhani with a relentless body attack throughout. Two rights to the body put him down in the third, and the same punch sent him to his knees again in the fourth. It was plain enough that Sarhani wanted no more, and Tiedt didn’t even finish his count.
In other action, Dublin featherweight David Griffin (23-3) outpointed Bulgarian Wladimir Borov (16-27-1), while England-based junior welter Andrew Murray (7-0) stopped his French opponent, Francois (Tony) Jourda (3-1).
The walk-out bout saw London lightweight Andrew Wallace (4-0) squeak by Polish journeyman Dariusz Snarski (16-24-1) by a 39-38 margin in a contest abbreviated to four rounds. (Had it gone the originally scheduled six, the bout could well have gone the other way.)
June 3, 2006
FEATHERWEIGHTS: Bernard Dunne, 123½, Dublin, Ireland TKO’d David Martinez, 123¼, Albuquerque, NM (8)
Paul Griffin, 125½, Dublin, Ireland dec. Wladimir Borov, 128, Sofia, Bulgaria (6)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Jim Rock, 160, Dublin TKO’d Lee Murtagh, 159¼, Leeds, England (7) (Wins vacant Irish title)
James Moore, 155½, Arklow, Ireland TKO’d Salaheddine Sarhini, 155¼, Nantes, France (4)
JUNIOR WELTERS; Oisin Fagan, 137½, Dublin, Ireland TKO’d Jeff Thomas, 137, Blackpool, England (7) (Wins vacant Irish title.)
Andrew Murray, 136, St. Anne’s, England TKO’d Francois Jourda, 137 Nancy, France, France (3)
LIGHTWEIGHTS: Andrew Wallace, 133½, London, England dec. Dariiusz Snarski, 135, Bialystock, Poland (4)