June 11 was a big night for the Irish in boxing. In Washington, D.C., journeyman Kevin McBride outlasted a fading Mike Tyson to put the final nail in Iron Mike’s career coffin. But Tyson-McBride was about the past. The future of boxing was on display at Madison Square Garden, where John Duddy of County Derry continued his climb through the middleweight ranks.
Duddy fought Patrick Thompson in an eight-round bout on the undercard of a title defense by World Boxing Organization 140-pound champion Miguel Cotto. Cotto is a hero in his native Puerto Rico and the fights were held on the eve of New York’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“I’ve got a lot of Irish fans here,” Duddy said at the final pre-fight press conference. “I hope, when the night is over, I’ll have a lot of Puerto Rican fans on my side as well.”
Duddy had built a record of nine wins with nine knockouts in nine fights. Thompson was his most difficult test as a pro, and John responded with his best performance to date.
Duddy arrived at the arena two hours before fight time and sat quietly in his dressing room. Neither he nor trainer Harry Keitt spoke as Keitt taped Duddy’s fists.
“The entire day of a fight, I’m in a zone,” Duddy said afterward. “I don’t like talking. I’m focusing on what has to be done. It’s like a dream, really. The world gets narrower and narrower until all I see is the ring and me and my opponent.”
When the taping was done, Duddy examined his fists the way a gunfighter in the old West might have examined his guns. Then he went out and won every minute of every round. All three judges scored the bout 80-72 in his favor.
“I don’t mind losing the knockout streak,” Duddy said when the fight was over. “You get more respect from people when you prove you can go the distance. I can go ten or twelve rounds in the gym, but I was glad to do it in a fight.”
Duddy still has flaws. He doesn’t move his head enough, which enabled Thompson to land lead right hands. He also stands upright and is disinclined to bend at the knees, which leaves him susceptible to left hooks. That’s part of what has led critics to contend that “Clan Duddy” is made up of amateurs. But Keitt, Irish Ropes promoter Eddie McLoughlin, and advisor Jim Borzeli just keep doing their job.
“Everything is good,” Duddy said after the fight. “I’m on track; I’ve gone eight rounds now; and I’ve won in Madison Square Garden.” ♦