John Duddy: Back on Track for a Title

By Dan Fitz-Simons - After a disastrous 18 months of cuts over both eyes, law suits, lost opportunities for a middleweight belt, and a chance to appear on HBO against Thomas Hearns Jr., whom he probably would have KO’d, John Duddy’s career has taken a turn for the better. The undefeated (26-0) Derry man’s future is now looking brighter, and he’s back in demand for some major bouts.

Kelly Pavlik has expressed interest in a fight with Duddy, and team Duddy has been talking to Sauerland regarding a match against Arthur Abraham.. Moreover, there are rumors that Bob Arum has been contemplating a Duddy-Chavez Jr. bout in the Garden, and that Yuri Foreman could also be on Duddy’s list of opponents. It’s also likely that the Derry Destroyer will fight in his native Ireland again.

While Duddy’s victories against B-level opponents like Charlie Howe and Matt Vanda are hardly the stuff of champions, the fact that the Irishman won both contests with hardly a scratch, proves he now has a credible defense. Thanks to his trainer Pat Burns, Duddy has revived his dormant boxing skills, especially the left jab, which remains one of the best in the division.

The Burns brothers have also put John on a weight training program, and his arms look bigger. By packing on more muscle, Duddy might be able to expand his record of 17 KO’s and stand a puncher’s chance against the big bangers, Pavlik and Abraham. Duddy will never hit like Andy Lee, but Andy could learn a trick or two on the inside from John’s vicious upper cut.

Duddy’s most dangerous punch, the left hook, has been placed in reserve by Burns, so that John can perfect his jab. When Duddy let loose a flurry of left hooks against Campas and Smichet, he left himself wide open for straight right hands over the top. In both contests, he was cut to pieces and barely won on points. If Burns has his way, those days are over.

In his last two fights, Duddy was more controlled. However, his popularity was based on his devil-may-care style. The original Duddy used to wade into opponents and knock them out; that’s the brawling type of hero his fans want. Consequently, Burns is trying to combine Duddy’s skills, by creating a boxer-puncher who can still produce exciting knock-outs without getting cut to shreds.

The upcoming fight against Billy Lyell (18-7) on April 24th could reveal some clues to this amalgamated style. Duddy may box Lyell and then explode, going for the knockout. Lyell’s record includes losses to Rory-Boy Campas and James Kirkland. With only 3 KOs, it’s obvious he can’t hit. If all goes as planned, Duddy will gain another win along with a timely tune up for bigger things to come.

While Duddy’s boxing skills have improved, some of his old habits linger. He still trails his left dangerously low, and his head movement, although improved, remains too stationary. There was also a stamina issue in the Vanda fight that may have been the result of ring rust from enforced idleness. Nevertheless at 29, Duddy needs to step up to a higher level than Howe, Vanda, or Lyell.

If he defeats Lyell, Duddy could drop down to 154 and target an alphabet belt. A more lucrative option would be to stay at 160 and fight Pavlik for a big payday. The most sensible course for the smaller Duddy is to challenge Felix Sturm, but Duddy never does things the easy way. One thing for sure, if Duddy maintains his current momentum, he’ll be in position for a title shot by the end of the year.

Article posted on 11.04.2009

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