Boxing is stuck in a continuous loop and once again the wrong person is leaving

Bernard Dunne’s resignation from high-performance boxing concludes another cheerless chapter in the sport

It didn’t take long for the white noise and changing air pressure from almost 20,000 people screaming inside Madison Square Garden at Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, a sensation that filled the senses for days, to evaporate into the ether.

Irish boxing’s magical way of toying with the mind – Katie’s majesty in the professional ranks, drawing the attention of the world, before three days later Bernard Dunne’s resignation from high performance boxing concluded another cheerless chapter in the sport.

Both events in their own way were wearily Groundhog Day, Katie soaring, Irish boxing flat-lining.

For many people and many reasons that was a buzz wrecker, a head spinner that even exhausted Oscar Wilde's aphorism of losing two parents being careless. Dunne is the third talent to unhappily follow the path away from elite Irish boxing following the departures Gary Keegan and Billy Walsh.

Dunne, who led an Irish team to the most disrupted Olympic Games (probably in history) and through Kellie Harrington and Aidan Walsh brought back gold and bronze medals, half the entire Irish haul, and nine months later the nameless and faceless who disseminated a toxic faux survey and called it a report have gotten their way.

The head of Bernard Dunne was always the goal of the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) report, a self-proclaimed position paper in which "coaches, administrators and members have been consulted on 'their view' of the current situation in Irish Amateur Boxing".

One of the old hoary chestnuts that had apparently been buried for good was even resurrected by SWOT. "All teams selected by HPU [high performance unit] must be ratified by the Boxing Council, with permission to travel," it stated.

That would be. folks, akin to Andy Farrell running his Irish rugby World Cup squad past an IRFU committee, who had the authority to make changes, and then Farrell taking the prat fall if it didn't work out in France.

More sinisterly, another of the SWOT conclusions about Dunne was “Irish boxing needs a person with a different personality, profile, and the right skill set. Otherwise Irish boxing will decline further.”

Two Olympic medals later . . .

The document was drafted and circulated with the specific intent of discrediting and undermining Dunne in both a personal and professional capacity. The curious might ask why Dunne has resigned if an unsigned document was circulated and everyone agreed it was a nonsense piece of work and roundly condemned.

Dunne needed instant robust defending, a fast and rigorous investigation by his governing body. That didn’t happen.

Board level

The SWOT document came into existence in February 2021, although no investigation appeared to have been carried out by Irish boxing until Dunne wrote a letter of complaint on September 24th, 2021, seven months after it had been circulated and discussed at board level.

The document sat there breathing its bile and infiltrating every level of boxing from grass roots to board level. It wasn’t signed by anyone so what could they do?

Dunne’s complaint named two individuals on the board of Irish boxing, and it is apparent that Irish boxing sees no reason why they should not remain part of the organisation.

Here we are 15 months later and nothing has changed except Dunne has handed in his resignation. Irish boxing has not made public any investigation it carried out, its nature and whether it fully interrogated the computer trail that was left, including a name on the document.

It has not explained what exactly it has undertaken to find out who conducted the survey, who took part in it and then who put it together, printed it and circulated it.

All of those things need answers. If Irish boxing does not know who was behind the document the person who takes over from Dunne could – and given the past, probably will – be subject to exactly the same corrosive treatment.

“The person or persons who authored it have elected not to claim responsibility for it,” said this week’s statement from boxing despite a name listed in the document’s properties.

Dunne has resigned because nothing has been seen to have been done by the organisation that once simultaneously had two chairmen and has just recently completed another round of bitter infighting of its members in the courts.

Those who have watched Walsh and Keegan depart see this week's statement as more empty rhetoric. "Regret" was one of the words used as Walsh departed to the USA to be later awarded "World Coach of the Year" as Ireland was awarded the calamity of Rio.

"Regret" came up again. "Deep regret," this time. But there was none last October when an Irish team was sent to the World Championships in Belgrade. Dunne didn't want to send a team.

Overrule

Still, when boxing decided to overrule and send, it did so without the high performance director involved in the selection. Dunne then found himself at meetings with the very people who were the subject of his complaints. This is how boxing runs its affairs. Ireland ended up sending seven athletes to Belgrade without Dunne travelling. Six of them lost their first fight.

The sport is stuck in a continuous loop and once again the wrong person is leaving. It is noted that funding to boxing was not yet confirmed on Thursday when all other sports were for three years. Boxing failed to protect its assets. Dunne paid the price, now it’s the athletes.