Andy Lee And John Duddy – An Irish Collision Waiting To Happen

By Matthew Hurley: After defeating Howard Eastman by a unanimous vote of 96-94 at a sold out King’s Hall in Belfast, Ireland, John Duddy has agreed to take on Matt Vanda on February 2nd at Madison Square Garden in New York. Duddy, whose record improved to 23-0 with 17 KOs fought a disciplined fight against the veteran Eastman who drops to 42-6 with 35 KOs..

Duddy’s return to New York will come on the under card of the WBC heavyweight championship fight between Oleg Maskaev and Samuel Peter, but the fighter and his team promise to return to King’s Hall in the near future. Duddy talked of his long held desire to fight in King’s Hall in recollection of watching fighters like former featherweight champion Barry McGuigan command center stage and keep the entire country of Ireland enraptured. But New York is becoming a home away from home for the Irish middleweight contender and he is quickly developing a loyal fan base in eastern part of the United States.

Duddy’s manager Eddie McLoughlin indicated after the fight that he was pleased with his fighter’s progress and the signs of maturation in the face of the battle tested Eastman.

“I thought John moved up a level,” he told BBC Sport. “We knew that Howard Eastman was going to test him and he did and John came through it very well. There has been a lot of talk about a world title fight and that will come. Our plan was always to have it in 2008 and we are on track but he needs a couple more wins.”

That philosophy sounds much more grounded than a month or two ago when a rumored fight with middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik was being discussed for February. Pavlik’s camp were all for the fight if Jermain Taylor did not invoke the rematch clause in the contract for their first bout. Pavlik knocked out the then reining champion in the seventh round of a brutal affair and it was assumed that Taylor would take time off and then return against a lesser opponent. However, Taylor did indeed sign for the fight, to be fought at the catch-weight of 166 pounds with the middleweight title not on the line, and then promptly dismissed head trainer Emanuel Steward. Pavlik, in the interim, had injured his hands in a home accident, but was cleared to begin training in late November. All of these machinations perhaps cleared the thinking of Duddy and his camp until they came to the realization that the popular and tough young kid is still nearly as green as the colored trunks he wears. In no way was he yet ready for a behemoth like Pavlik.

One fighter who is circling about the Duddy regime is another up and coming Irish middleweight contender Andy Lee, who fights out of the Kronk Gym and is trained by Emanuel Steward. Lee’s progression is being viewed in boxing circles with greater appreciation than that of Duddy’s. There is a feeling that the power punching Lee, despite only thirteen professional fights, is rapidly gaining on his better known countryman.

Lee was ringside for Duddy’s victory over Eastman but the two fighters were not allowed to come face to face. Lee will face Jason McKay at the National Stadium in Dublin on December 15th, a card promoted by Brian Peters who also promoted Duddy’s bout against Eastman. The two boxers fought on the same card back in March on St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden and an issue arose over Duddy’s US-based promotional firm, Irish Ropes.

That night Duddy struggled against Anthony Bonsante until finally stopping him in the tenth round. Lee scored a dramatic one punch knockout over former WBC middleweight champion Carl Daniels and the highlight soon became a staple on both Lee’s personal website and YouTube. In the aftermath of Lee stealing Duddy’s thunder, Irish Ropes had YouTube remove the video. This is according to Lee and it has built up a bit of resentment, however Lee insists he bears no personal grudge against Duddy. The mere idea of an all Irish middleweight slugfest is enough to get boxing fans rubbing their hands together in anticipation and a little animosity would make it even more savory.

Until that happens the two rising middleweights will continue to hone their skills, each awaiting the call to fight for the title. But before that happens, Duddy and Lee may have to face each other in the ring to get that opportunity and that ring could be in King’s Hall.

Article posted on 10.12.2007

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