31.10.07 – By Geoffrey Ciani: Howard Eastman has lost four of his last six bouts, and ordinarily this signifies a fighter in decline. To be sure, at age 36 it is safe to say that Eastman’s best boxing days are probably behind him. Despite losing most of his recent fights, it should be noted that Eastman has continued to face quality opposition—a sign that he has now been delegated to the role of a stepping stone fighter..
Stepping stone fighters make for great measuring sticks. If a promising prospect passes the test against such an opponent, it helps elevate him to the next level. On the other hand, suffering a loss against one typically indicates a fighter is not ready—and may well never be ready—for the big time fights.
Three middleweight contenders have recently bested Howard Eastman, most notably Arthur Abraham and Edison Miranda. Wins against Eastman helped propel both of these promising prospects on the path to a title shot. Miranda was probably one fight away from getting his shot before being stopped against Kelly Pavlik who went on to defeat former boxing champion Jermain Taylor in his very next contest. Abraham now seems poised in the same position, and will likely get a shot at the winner of the Pavlik-Taylor rematch should he win his next bout against Wayne Elcock (who, incidentally, was the other fighter who recently beat Eastman).
These three fighters were all successful in overcoming the stepping stone, and as such, all three were able to get one step closer to a potential title shot. Now John Duddy is looking to follow their recipe for success, as he, too, is slated to face the middleweight stepping stone—Howard Eastman.
This is a very dangerous fight for the undefeated Irish middleweight contender, especially when one considers Duddy’s name was already being thrown around as a possible opponent for Pavlik before his rematch with Taylor was a done deal. The fact that Duddy is an exciting and marketable young fighter with a loyal fan base almost guarantees him a title shot somewhere down the line, so long as he keeps winning. Unfortunately for Duddy, a bout with Eastman has the potential to derail his momentum.
Duddy has never faced a fighter on the level of Eastman. In fact, even worse, he has struggled in the past against inferior foes. Duddy’s biggest problem seems to stem from the fact he is extremely easy to hit. Not only does he eat a lot of punches, he seems to be caught flush with power shots an awful lot for an aspiring champion. Although Eastman isn’t the same fighter he once was when he challenged the likes of Bernard Hopkins and William Joppy for portions of the middleweight boxing crown, he is still a formidable enough opponent that he should have no problems finding his target when he faces Duddy.
Duddy deserves tremendous credit for taking this bout. Instead of risking his status, he could very easily wait it out by facing weak opposition until the time comes when he was given a title shot. This would have landed him a nice payday, some national exposure, and given him an opportunity to fight for a title. Instead, he is risking it all against a seasoned veteran who has the tools and experience to beat him. In a day and age where too many fighters are taking the path of least resistance, Duddy should be commended for wanting to prove his worth.
In the process, however, Duddy may be biting off more than he can chew. If he suffers a loss against Eastman, Duddy may never get the title shot and the big pay day he is certain to receive if he remains unbeaten. This is a calculated risk that may well backfire. Even if Duddy were to recover from such a loss and work his way back into the title picture, the damage that can be done might be irreversible.
Frankly, I think this is a bad match-up for John Duddy, and although I would not count him out entirely, I reckon this will be a very difficult match-up for him. In fact, I suspect Eastman will be victorious.
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