Boxing: Burke to stretch Dunne

Steve Bunce
Friday 06 December 2002 01:00

When fights like Colin Dunne against David Burke are announced it often follows that within a few days they are cancelled, but tomorrow night potentially one of the best domestic fights for many years will take place at the Brentwood International Centre in Essex.

Dunne will defend his World Boxing Union lightweight title, which he won in 1997, for the eighth time when he meets the Commonwealth lightweight champion Burke. The fight was only officially made last weekend when Burke had a bout in Liverpool postponed at the last minute.

Both boxers are from Liverpool and, in theory, the fight should be taking place in their home city. Nevertheless, the list of quality British fights this year is very short while the catalogue of planned showdowns is considerably longer and far more impressive.

Burke was the only British boxer to qualify for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 but a long and well-documented struggle with weight culminated in a first round exit. The 27-year-old turned professional nine months later and he has lost once in just 22 fights, to a former world-ranked amateur from Romania when disillusioned with the game and close to quitting.

Dunne's only defeat in 39 fights came in November 1996 when he was stopped in nine punishing rounds of a British title challenge by Michael Ayers. Since that painful night he has beaten a succession of genuinely world-class men, three of his world title defences going to split decisions.

On the same Brentwood bill, Richard Williams, British boxing's most neglected boxer, will defend his International Boxing Organisation light-middleweight title against Paul Samuels in a rematch of their controversial fight earlier this year. Williams was cut in the last fight and retained his title on a technical decision. However, action replays clearly revealed that the cut was caused by a punch and at the time of the stoppage Samuels was taking over.

The two fights in Brentwood are in stark contrast to the action that will take place at York Hall, Bethnal Green, on Sunday afternoon when David Haye, the only British boxer to reach a final at the amateur world championships, makes his professional debut as a cruiserweight live on BBC TV's Grandstand.

Haye has already had more exposure than Dunne, Burke, Williams and Samuels put together, and his first fight, which was arranged at short notice, will provide a clear indication of just how chaotic, pleasurable or distasteful it will be to follow his career.

The BBC's other main attraction, Audley Harrison, has failed to catch on with the British public. Hopefully Haye, who is a decade younger than Harrison, will be different and the signs are promising because his opponent, Valery Semishkur, a small heavyweight from the Ukraine, is far better than anybody that Harrison has so far met.

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