St. Patrick’s Day Brawl: Duddy vs. Pavlik?

By Dan Fitz-Simons: Almost immediately after Kelly Pavlik’s victory over Jermain Taylor, fight promoter Bob Arum announced his proposal for a bout between Pavlik and Ireland’s John Duddy at Madison Square Garden. But before Duddy can take on Pavlik, he will have to defeat Uruguay’s Noe Tulio Gonzalez Alcoba (14-1) whose only loss was to WBA middleweight champion, Felix Sturm in Germany this summer. Alcoba is stepping in as a last minute replacement for the Spain’s light middleweight champion, Pablo Navascues, who was forced to pull out because of an ankle injury. The Duddy-Alcoba fight is scheduled for October 20, in Dublin..

While Duddy is not the most qualified contender to challenge Pavlik, he does have an impressive record of 21-0 (17KOs). The Derry Destroyer is also ranked among the top ten middleweights by most of the alphabet organizations. In addition, Duddy has two other factors in his favor: he’s Irish; and he comes to fight. The proposed bout with Pavlik would take place on St. Patrick’s Day Eve in New York City, which has a huge Irish and Irish-American fan base of fanatical Duddy supporters.

Duddy’s brawling, devil-may-care style has heightened his popularity. He usually comes out swinging at the bell and has been compared stylistically to Jack Dempsey (minus Dempsey’s hitting power). He enjoys a good fight, takes his training seriously, and consistently shows up in top physical condition to mix it up with opponents. Duddy’s enthusiasm for a brawl electrifies the fans who know that whenever he fights there is usually blood (much of it his) and someone is going down.

Add to this volatile mixture the five thousand frenzied Pavlik loyalists who traveled to Atlantic City for the Taylor fight. These rabid “Youngstownians” have been known to threaten slow death by disembowelment to anyone who even hints that their champion could be defeated. No doubt, these same Pavlik fans would gladly make a similar pilgrimage to the Big Apple to watch “the Ghost” crush the Irish imposter.

Bob Arum is well aware of this potentially explosive atmosphere, and few promoters can smell a fat purse like Arum. Pavlik for his part says he is willing to fight anyone, and after seeing what he did to Miranda and Taylor, whatever Kelly says should be taken very, very seriously. Ironically, it is team Duddy that might slow down an arrangement. Irish Ropes has been extremely cautious in developing Duddy as a top contender; a similar offer by Taylor’s camp was turned down last year.

Lately, Duddy has been busy building up a European profile while fighting in his native Ireland. His most recent victory was over Alessio Furlan of Italy. Some believe that the McLaughlin brothers are lining up Duddy for a European belt. So far, John has done well in this new venue and is pleased to be fighting back in his homeland. Nevertheless, a shot at the world middleweight title combined with a huge New York payday could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

In the event the bout is scheduled, the Derry Destroyer will be giving up four years in age and ten fights in experience to Pavlik, who at age 25, already has a record of 32-0 (29KOs). Lack of courage has never been an issue with Duddy, but he is missing a resume of well known opponents. The conventional wisdom says Duddy will succumb to Pavlik’s superior power and experience. Kelly likes to throw right hands over the top, and Duddy’s greatest weaknesses have been a lack of head movement and a tendency to drop his left too low.

On the other hand, Duddy has a good chin and is working to improve his defense under his new veteran trainer, Don Turner. His left jab is one of the best in the division, and while John is not a banger at the level of Pavlik, he has dropped numerous opponents with either hand. He also has a vicious left hook, a dangerous right upper cut, and fast hands that enable him to put together deadly combinations. If Kelly starts eating Duddy’s jabs to the nose, his breathing could be impaired, leading to a long uncomfortable evening for the champion.

Some fight aficionados see this contest developing into a four or five round war with one or both fighters going down. The smart money is on Pavlik, but many an Irish heart is with Duddy. Even if a Pavlik-Duddy fight never takes place, Kelly’s defeat of Taylor has sent a breath of fresh air through the middleweight division. Both Pavlik and Duddy project a much needed, positive image to the sport of boxing. It’s difficult to dislike either one of these warriors. If the contract is signed, this author will be on the train to New York on March 16; it’s already been cleared with the Mrs.

Article posted on 04.10.2007

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