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Boxing: Duddy on course for belt after Belfast epic

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John Duddy lands an excellent left hand on Howard Eastman during their fight on Saturday

John Duddy lands an excellent left hand on Howard Eastman during their fight on Saturday

John Duddy lands an excellent left hand on Howard Eastman during their fight on Saturday

After winning a desperately close but deserved decision at the weekend over wily veteran Howard Eastman of Guyana, John Duddy will be back at the King's Hall, Belfast early in the New Year -- possibly with the European middleweight belt as the prize.

"We are looking at either February or March, and against the German holder of the title, Sebastian Sylvester," said the Derry Destroyer's manager Eddie McLoughlin yesterday.

"Sylvester has a title defence against the Frenchman, Francois Bastient, in Berlin on January 26 so we'll have to take it from there.

"I would love to take on Sylvester, or Bastient if he takes the title," said Duddy last night. "There is also talk of me meeting the world champion from the US, Kelly Pavlik, in 2008, but I leave all that negotiating to my manager. He does the business. I do the fighting. I'll meet whoever is put in front of me.

Roar

"The fans gave me great support and it was just unbelievable to hear that King's Hall roar.

"It was deafening. I've boxed in the world's greatest sporting arena, Madison Square Garden in New York, but I've never had a reception like I got on Saturday night."

Eastman, based in London and a former European, British and Commonwealth champion, came to fight -- and he certainly did, in a thriller before a capacity 6,000 crowd on this Brian Peters promotion.

Belfast referee Sean Russell gave it to Duddy by 96 points to 94, which matched this writer's card. Not surprisingly, Eastman thought he won.

"You can quote me and say I was robbed," he said. "I'm gutted. Ok, I was boxing an Irishman in Ireland with an Irish referee in charge so all that was against me. Duddy is good but he is not yet the finished fighter. He's a young fox but his people will not want to rush him. Give him time or he will get hurt out there.

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"Having said that, I respect Duddy. I'll take off my hat to him. I should have worked him in the body a bit more. Anyhow, I'd like to fight him again, in Belfast or Dublin or anywhere else, though I doubt if Duddy would want to go over old ground and take me on again. But you haven't seen the last of me. Remember, Howard Eastman is a warrior, and warriors fight."

Duddy, at 28, will have learned considerably from this tough test against a boxer who was 37 on Saturday and has been in rings all over the world. The Derry hitter showed he can take a good wallop on the chin and remain upright. More importantly, he is not reluctant to take the initiative, though his defence needs tightening against looping left hooks.

"We are working on that point," stressed his American trainer Don Turner who has coached 19 world champions including greats such as Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield and Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns. "It all takes time but this guy has a great career in front of him. He'll be world champion inside the next 12 months.

"We knew he had to beat Eastman to gain some credibility. Eastman is no slouch but John has now beaten him. What did I say to John just as he went out for the first round? I said, 'Just hit him, and don't let him hit you.' That's all."


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