Dunne climaxed a historic day for Irish sport following the rugby union team’s Grand Slam triumph earlier in the day by roaring back from certain defeat in front of over 9,000 fans. The 29 year-old Neilstown boxer trailed by six, five and three points on the three scorecards going into the penultimate round and only a knockout could save him.
He got it.
There were a total of six knockdowns in the first world title match on Irish soil in 13 years. But in the end, it was the challenger who was left standing with the belt as the former champion was stretched out of the ring.
Dunne was down twice in the fifth — after earlier decking Cordoba with a vicious left hook in the third stanza – but beat the count on both occasions.
Saved by the bell as the Panamanian southpaw moved in for the kill, Dunne battled back down the stretch to close the show in what some ring observers described as the best fight ever seen on Irish soil.
The action was pulsating at times with brutal exchanges testing each man’s strength and resolve.
Dunne, at 29, five years older than Cordoba, had a strong ninth round in which he shook up his man. He finished stronger in the tenth, too, rocking the champ with powerful shots after some back and fourth action.
Cordoba, however, was now running on fumes. He went down in the 11th after a minor exchange only to kiss the canvas again from a cracking left hook.
Refusing to stay down, he arose for the second time and staggered to the ropes where Dunne ended the fight with a final barrage punctuated by a left to the head.
Referee Hubert Earle, perhaps a tad too late, stopped it when Cordoba went down for the third time in the round. The time was 2:59.
“It’s been an incredible ride to get here,” Dunne, spotting stitches for cuts over his eyes said later. “A long road. Ten years amateur and eight years professional. I’m in boxing since I’m five years of age.”
His manager Brian Peters said Dunne’s left hook was the difference: “He couldn’t miss him with the left hook. He was shaking him up with punches and we knew Bernard was capable of more.”
Dunne, a pro since 2001 who spent the first four years of his career in Los Angeles, improved to 28-1 with his 15th stoppage win.
Cordoba, a reputed puncher who turned pro nine years ago at age 15, lost for just the second time in his career. He’s now 34-2-2 with 21 KOs.