Boxing: Dunne ready to take on the best

IS IT a contradiction in terms for a fighter to become a world champion before becoming world class? Not in the case of Colin Dunne, the Liverpool-born lightweight who successfully defended his World Boxing Union championship for the third time in Bethnal Green, east London, on Saturday.

Dunne, 28, had won his version of the world title at the York Hall in November 1997, so he was a champion before the weekend, with 28 wins (20 KOs) from 29 fights, all but 10 of which had taken place at this venue. But a defeat in nine rounds by Michael Ayers, in a British title fight a year earlier, hampered Dunne's recognition as a genuinely top-grade fighter.

Not any more. Dunne's latest opponent, South Africa's Phillip Holiday, was a respected former International Boxing Federation champion who had lost just one of 35 fights (19 wins by KO), and that had come against the Californian, Shane Mosley, who is regarded as the world's premier fighter at 9st 9lb, by some stretch. But Dunne easily dealt with Holiday and won a wide - if slightly flattering - unanimous decision by scores of 117-109, 118-110 and 116-112.

The fight was ITV's second venture into live Saturday night boxing following an absence of almost four years. The network had perhaps been guilty of over-hyping the match beforehand, but it was a competitive and compelling affair which interested even when it didn't excite. Holiday bled heavily from a cut to his forehead from round five, Dunne from a slit below his right eyebrow, but the Holloway-based "Dynamo" was always the harder working of the pair.

Evaluating Dunne following this win is difficult. He may hold a world title, but the Luton-based European champion, Billy Schwer, is still regarded as the best of British, while Mosley rules the world with his body attack. But Dunne would not disgrace himself against either of them, this much we now know.

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