Boxing: Duddy ready for lion's den
THIS is the big one, the real deal, the defining moment of John Duddy's career.
An impressive win over Mexico's unbeaten Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr in the main event at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday night will almost certainly earn the Derry Destroyer a dream shot at the world middleweight title.
Reports emanating from Argentina suggest the new WBC champion Sergio Martinez is about to vacate the title and move up to light heavyweight, leaving the winner of the Duddy-Chavez fight in a strong position to contest the belt.
Even if Martinez stays at middleweight, the Duddy-Chavez victor could call the shots as Chavez is the WBC's No 1, with Duddy ranked eighth.
Bob Arum, chief executive of Top Rank Promotions, said in New York yesterday: "I'd be very interested in a title shot for the winner and what better incentive is there for either Duddy or Chavez?"
Can Duddy pull it off? With 29 wins in 30 fights, 18 either by countouts or stoppages, against Chavez's single draw in 42 bouts, 30 by the short route, he has an outstanding chance, even if the Mexican is expected to climb into the 15,000-capacity arena, which will be packed with his fanatical supporters, as the favourite.
Still, Duddy could upset those odds. He may be 31, and seven years older than Chavez, but his aggression, grit, and hard hitting leaves him capable of a shock win, providing he dominates the action from the start.
One worry for the Duddy camp, though, will be that old problem of cuts -- and he has had more than his share of facial injuries.
How good is Chavez? Despite his impressive-looking record, there are not too many big names among his victims and he is largely untested. But he is a good boxer-puncher. A son of the Mexican legend and six-weights world champion, he is returning to the ring after being suspended for using a banned drug in his last bout seven months ago.
Chavez knew he would have to get back into top shape for this one, and employed Freddie Roach, considered to be the best trainer of his era.
"Roach has put me in the best condition possible," he said.
"I respect Duddy, of course I do, and he will have his supporters cheering him on, but I will have more, with all my own fans from over the border. I feel confident that I will return to my hometown of Culiacan as the winner."
Duddy, who is based in the Big Apple, and has been training in the rarefied atmosphere of the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania as well as doing gym work in New York, countered: "I have no fears of boxing within a shout of Mexico. If anything, it makes me all the more determined.
"There's nothing like going into the lion's den. He's a stand-up fighter and a big target for my body shots. My coach Harry Keitt says he is happy with my condition. He feels, though, that we can't make it close. He's right. We have to take the judges out of the equation in what will be a hostile atmosphere."
Meanwhile, home action switches to Cork on Saturday night when Brian Peters stages an impressive card featuring the three unbeaten Cubans based on Leeside -- heavyweight Mike Perez, light-heavyweight Luis Garcia and super-bantamweight Alexei Acosta.
Big interest will centre on Limerick's explosive super-bantamweight Willie 'Big Bang' Casey, a sensational winner of the Prizefighter competition in London four weeks ago when he came in as a late replacement for the injured Wayne McCullough. His opponent is expected to be announced today.
Cavan's European Union and Irish lightweight champion Andy Murray, who also holds the national light-welterweight belt, goes in against Hungary's Laszlo Robert Balogh, while Irish middleweight champion Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan can expect strong home support against an opponent to be named today.
Finally, Dublin light-welterweight Jamie Kavanagh (20) has his second pro bout when he ducks between the ropes in Los Angeles tonight against an as yet unnamed opponent. The Crumlin native is a former world amateur junior silver medallist.