30-year-old Irish boxing star Bernard Dunne announced his retirement from the sport today, telling Joe Stack of RTÉ that it's "time to face new challenges."
While any boxing retirement is to be taken with a huge grain of salt, I'll always treat the announcements as though they're legit, and as if we'll never see the fighter lace 'em up again. Dunne just turned 30 on February 6, and was coming off both the biggest and probably most heartbreaking year of his career, which began in 2001 at the Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, California.
In fact, Dunne didn't fight in his native Ireland (he was born in Neilstown and now lives in Dublin with his family) until 2005, and aside from one fight in Germany and another in Italy, he never boxed outside of Ireland again.
Dunne's greatest night -- in his own words, even -- came last year against Ricardo Cordoba, a thrilling war that was regarded by some as the 2009 Fight of the Year. Bad Left Hook ranked it No. 3 for the year. Here are Dunne's words on that bout:
"There have been so many highs in my career but to pick one out you'd have to pick the night against Cordoba. It is the stuff dreams are really made of. That night was, I suppose you could say, like a movie script.
"The easiest thing in the world would have been to climb through the ropes and fight again but honesty has always been very important to me and I am being honest to myself, to my family and to my supporters with this decision.
"The great Irish fans that travelled on the journey to a world title belt with me deserved better than to pay their hard earned cash just to see me go through the motions. I could never do that to them. Thankfully I have realised all my dreams and achieved all my goals since I followed my dad into boxing.
"To win a world title is something I will never forget and something I am so proud of and I would like to thank everyone who helped make that possible."
Six months later, Dunne was knocked out in the third round by Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, losing his world title in his first defense of the belt. It happened at the same building (Dublin's O2 Arena) where he had beaten Cordoba, and what struck me after that fight was that Dunne received almost the same level of cheering from the crowd losing to Poonsawat that he had received when he beat Cordoba. The connection between Dunne and the Irish boxing fans was amazing.
If Dunne (28-2, 15 KO) has really decided to hang 'em up for good, and never boxes again, then happy trails to him. He was a pure blood-and-guts warrior, a reckless fighter that always gave his audience their money's worth, and a gracious, classy fighter to boot.