© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009
Saturday, September 26, was a good day for me because I was able to watch two entertaining world championship professional boxing matches. The first was Bernard Dunne’s defense of the 122 pound WBA Super Bantamweight title against Poonsawat Kratingdaengym, and the second Vitali Kiltschko’s defense of the WBC Heavyweight Championship against Chris Arreola. Dunne lost his title to Kratingdaengym at the end of the third round in an action packed fight, and Klitschko successfully defended his title with a dominating performance putting him far ahead on the scorecards before Arreola’s corner refused to let him answer the 11th round bell at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Dunne defended his title in Dublin, Ireland, and I watched it at The Local, one of the “Trinity of Pubs” owned by Irish native Kieran Folliard, including Kieran’s, not far from The Local in downtown Minneapolis, and The Liffey, on West 7th Street and Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul. It was good to view the fight at The Local and the staff were quite friendly to me, as I was the only one to show up for it and the rest of the patrons were watching soccer matches in other sections of the place. The bartender indulged me in conversation, listening to my technical analysis of the fight and fighters as the action took place.
Dunne fought well and moved and jabbed effectively the first round, but from the beginning he periodically stopped and traded punches, and that caught up to him with 1:23 left in the third round, when he suffered the first knockdown. He got up and struggled to clinch. He shook the cobwebs and moved, and although he seemed to be surviving he started trading punches again and went down. He got up and went right back to it, foolishly, and was knocked out. The last knockdown came with 13 seconds left in the round, and he was unable to recover
The quick turn of the tide from the first to the third round was striking. Dunne moved and landed punches well from the opening bell, and actually looked very skillful, strategically jabbing and dancing to the left, sometimes hooking effectively off the jab and landing right hands and left hooks over the top. He also landed left uppercuts to the liver followed by left hooks and right hands, and some good right uppercuts when Poonsawat tried to move in under his jab. After moving Poonsawat all the way around the ring to the left Dunne would double back to the right, and about halfway to where he started he’d reset and lead him the other way again. But when Dunne stopped to throw his own power combinations, Poonsawat punched right with him and always landed solid blows at the end of exchanges. Also, Poonsawat kept bobbing and weaving forward, had his own jab, and was effective with left hooks and right hands. His determination was overwhelming, and Dunne could not keep the necessary pace. The first knockdown came from a perfectly thrown left hook, and Dunne’s response was to increase his vulnerability by slugging back instead of moving away and avoiding more punishment.
Dunne actually has a connection to St. Paul, having fought in Aldrich Arena in North St. Paul on August 19, 2004, when he won a unanimous decision over Adrian Valdes. That fight was on the under card of the first loss of St. Paul’s East Side son, Matt Vanda, who was defeated in a 154 pound Junior Middleweight fight by Armando Velardez of San Bernardino, California. Freddie Roach was with Dunne for that fight. I had the privilege of meeting Roach and working out at his gym while visiting Hollywood at the end of May, and when I told him I was from St. Paul he recalled being there with Dunne. It seems to me that if fighting is in Dunne’s future he’d benefit from more training with a man like Roach, because in spite of beginning very well he did everything wrong once he got solidly hit. Poonsawat deserves extra credit for the victory, though, because the large ring was obviously chosen for Dunne’s advantage, but in spite of the Irishman’s initial speed and movement the Thai warrior walked him down and caught him with the fatal blows.
The Klitschko fight was not nearly so exciting, but that’s often to be expected among heavyweights, especially when the fight is such a mismatch. But it was still pleasurable to watch this 38-year-old Ukrainian World Champion so skillfully move and pick Arreola apart for ten rounds, especially while taking into consideration the overwhelming intellect he carries through life along with his boxing skills. When a heavyweight capable of beating him or his brother, Vladmir, will come along is anybody’s guess at this point. But Jim Lampley’s assessment at the end of the HBO broadcast was poignant. He and colleague Larry Merchant discussed how difficult it is for a man in his fourth decade to be physically fit enough to compete on the world class level in boxing or any professional sport, and Lampley emphasized in the closing statement that Arreola or any other fighter believing he can take even a short period off to drink beer and still defeat the likes of Vitali Klitschko is only fooling himself.