John Duddy did not attend our Top 100 Irish-Americans of the Year event on March 16. He had a good reason – he was boxing the head off Shelby Pudwill in Madison Square Garden on the way to winning his first professional belt, the WBC Continental Americas middleweight title. He made quick work of Pudwill, knocking him out in 91 seconds, bringing his record to 16-0 with 14 knockouts. Duddy’s first title defense on June 10 will be against the very respected and vastly experienced Freddy Cuevas, who has beaten former world champion boxers Charles Murray and Wilfredo Rivera. He also took Jermaine Taylor, current undisputed and world middleweight champion, the full 12 rounds, so the fight will represent a big step up in class for the Derry-born fighter. “I keep working hard and at the end of the day, this is what I want to do and where I want to be. I’m very comfortable fighting at home in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Hopefully this fight will be another step forward. The more fans, the merrier, and I am really looking forward to the June 10 bout,” Duddy said at the press conference for the fight, which is on the undercard to Miguel Cotto vs. Paulie Malignaggi on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Malignaggi’s promoter, Lou DiBella, paid tribute to Duddy saying, “John Duddy has been partially responsible for the resurgence of boxing in New York City and he has been fully responsible for re-igniting the interest of the Irish-American community in boxing in New York City.” High praise from the man behind Jermaine Taylor. DiBella went on to say how he had tried to get Duddy to sign with him but he complimented Irish Ropes on getting there first and doing a fine job.
Though he has fought with Irish Ropes all his career, Duddy only put pen to paper on a three-year-deal with Irish Ropes in early May. “Over the past three years we’ve put a together a good team. I couldn’t see any reason not to sign with them. It’s fantastic and they were really generous. Wherever I go in boxing, Irish Ropes is going to be there.” Eddie McLaughlin, President of Irish Ropes, was equally delighted with the deal. “I’m sure he got better offers from other promoters, but we have built a team of people that he is very comfortable with. John Duddy is already one of the most exciting fighters in the world today and someday he will be world champion.” Irish America caught up with them all recently when the Irish Ropes gym in Rockaway, Queens, opened its doors to the local community to welcome their new champion home. Duddy patiently stood for photos with kids and their parents, displaying the social skills and charisma that have made him such a marketable fighter. “All fights are tough, but I hope my next fight is as tough as my last,” Duddy said laughing as he showed off his belt and his Top 100 award. Duddy, who normally trains between the Irish Ropes and Gleeson’s gym, will go to a training camp in the Poconos for the first time in preparation for his Garden bout. “We are sending him up there to get him into the best possible physical condition,” said manager Eddie McLaughlin. Now ranked thirteenth by the World Boxing Association, Duddy has made enormous progress since we first featured him in the 2005 June/July issue of Irish America. Success in the ring has not had a negative impact on the affable Derryman as he has used his newfound fame to promote the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) group, wearing an ILIR T-shirt in the ring for his title fight in March and attending the recent address to the ILIR given by Senator John McCain in the Bronx. Now a titleholder, Duddy’s first defense against such proven opposition represents his knocking on the door of the business end of the middleweight division. June 10 offers Duddy increased exposure, as he will fight in front of his largest crowd and TV audience. Victory will mean bigger fights and bigger paydays. The sky was the limit when he first came over in 2003; now it doesn’t seem so far away.