Boxing: Duddy aiming to get back on track at Garden party
IT'S been a disastrous 12 months for Derry puncher John Duddy but he hopes his bad luck could change for the better at the weekend.
The former national senior light middleweight champion and international climbs into the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday to face the cagey American Matt Vanda -- billed as The Predator -- in a fight which could turn around his five-year career.
Facial injuries, a parting from his former trainer and switch to a new one and, most of all, a protracted and messy legal battle to break away from his New York-based management, Irish Ropes, have kept Duddy out of action since last June, when he outpointed the veteran American Charles Howe.
In his only other fight in 2008, he outpointed the unranked Walid Smichet in February, but paid a high price when severe cuts caused the cancellation of a $1.4m (€1.1m) world middleweight title fight with Kelly Pavlik, which Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was arranging for the following summer.
So it's been a frustrating time for one of Ireland's outstanding prospects, but he now gets a chance to re-establish himself in some way, even though Vanda is not a ranked contender with 39 wins and eight losses. But a good win can at least keep him in the title picture and rub away some of the ring rust a normally active boxer like Duddy can gather through long periods of inactivity.
The Duddy-Vanda fight, however, is still a high-profile one as it's on the undercard of the vacant WBO world welterweight title fight between Miguel Cotto and Michael Jennings, with live TV coverage across the US. An impressive win could open the way toward a title fight with Pavlik, who defends his WBO and WBC world belts against Marco Antonio Rubio the same night in Ohio.
The legal arguments are still going on, but a New York court has agreed to an injunction to allow the Vanda fight to go ahead, providing that Duddy's purse money is set aside until all the outstanding issues with Irish Ropes -- run by the McLoughlin brothers from Mayo, Eddie and Tony -- can be resolved.
"I'm hoping this fight will kick-start my career again after the huge disappointments of last year," said Duddy at his training camp in Miami. "I'm in very good shape and my new coach Pat Burns is very happy with my training. I'm feeling fine and I just want to get on with things from now on."
"John is ready now to get back to action and take up where he left off," said Burns. "I didn't pass judgment on taking this fight with Vanda until I saw what condition John was in but when I watched him, I felt he was ready. He wants to just get on with things, and move ahead.
"It's not going to be an easy fight, a walk in the park as we say over here, because this guy is a tough, seasoned fighter who wants to put another notch on his belt by beating a high-profile guy like John. He's made it hard for some of the best around, and he's a hungry fighter, but John is ready for him.
"We made the fight at middleweight because John had to get down 12 pounds when we started to work out. He is a lot better at light middle, his more natural weight, but we're happy at middleweight. I'm looking forward to a good 2009 with him."
ALL 2,300 tickets are practically sold for amateur boxing's big night of the year, the finals of the National Senior Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin tomorrow.
The 10-bout card includes three Beijing Olympians, light heavyweight Kenneth Egan, light welter John Joe Joyce and bantam John Joe Nevin, as well as European lightweight bronze medallist Ross Hickey. There will be places for the winners on the team to face the USA tomorrow week at the Stadium so competition will be keen.
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