BOSTON – Sounding as if he were borrowing a phrase from publicist Bob Trieger’s arsenal, Ireland’s John Duddy praised his vanquished opponent as “durable, slick, and crafty.”
“And can’t punch a lick,” he might have added.
Far from being embarrassed by being extended the distance for just the second time in his 15-bour professional career, the Derry middleweight pronounced his 10-round victory over Haitian journeyman Julio Jean at the Park Plaza Castle “a fantastic experience.”
“I probably learned more from this fight than I did in my first 14,” said Duddy.
That the main event of the Super Bowl eve “Super Brawl” show lasted as long as it did was undoubtedly of some comfort to the promoters, New England Ringside, because up until then a raucously pro-Duddy audience announced at 1,317 had spent most of the night in the beer lines, an experience only periodically interrupted by a succession of horribly mismatched undercard fights: Four of the five prelims had ended in less than a round, and the one that didn’t saw the opponent quit after two.
His Boston debut was a stop along the way for Duddy (now 15-0), who is already scheduled to fight North Dakota veteran Shelby Pudwill in the main event of a St. Patrick’s Day card at the Madison Square Garden Theatre on March 16, and his handlers weren’t taking many chances in the tune-up, which, with both fighters over the limit, was officially a super middleweight bout.
At the opening bell Duddy came out guns blazing in search of another quick knockout, but once it became apparent that it wasn’t going to happen, he realized he might have to settle in for the long haul.
To give Jean proper credit, the opponent had something to do with it as well. While Jean (7-7-1) seemed more than willing to trade with the Irishman in the early stanzas, by the fourth round he had assumed the counterpuncher’s role and attempted to catch Duddy coming in, and didn’t do a bad job of it. On several occasions he was able to slip a Duddy charge to land a stiff left uppercut of his own.
It was a tactic that might have been more useful had the Haitian packed more of a wallop, but a man who’d stopped just three of 14 previous opponents wasn’t going to do much but slow Duddy down. If Julio Jean had been a dangerous puncher he wouldn’t have been in this fight to begin with.
“I stopped trying to land the big shots and just tried to let my punches flow,” said Duddy after the bout, which he pronounced “a good experience.”
“The way I look at it, I passed another examination,” said the Derryman.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, given the brevity of most of his performances, Duddy emerged from this one with evidence that he had at least been in a fight – a nick at the bridge of his nose, which someone in the dressing room charitably suggested might have been the result of a headbutt.
“Headbutt, a punch, it doesn’t matter,” shrugged Duddy. “It’s all part of the business.”
There was little doubt about the outcome in any case. The Sweet Science scored the bout a 100-90 whitewash for the Irishman, as did ringside judges Leo Gerstel and John Mathis. The third judge, Ken Valuvic, apparently bent over backwards in the interest of fairness and gave Jean a round, scoring it 99-91.
There was surely no disgrace in going the distance with a willing opponent like Julio Jean, but questions about Duddy’s defense remain unanswered. What’s going to happen when he gets tagged by somebody who actually can punch?
The question seems unlikely to be answered on St. Patricks Day, either: Pudwill, Duddy’s main event opponent, is 21-2-1, but has stopped just nine of 24 opponents, and would seem to be an obvious step down from the originally contemplated foe, Yori Boy Campas, who might have given Duddy a real test.
Unbeaten Belarus-born Brooklyn junior middle Yuri Foreman (20-0) didn’t figure to have much trouble with South Boston’s Jimmy LeBlanc, but not in his wildest dreams could Foreman have imagined the disgraceful walkover his Boston debut would turn into. LeBlanc came into the bout with an 11-9-4 record, which sounds better than it is when you consider he was once 9-1-1.
To say that LeBlanc fought in retreat understates the case. Although he waved his jab at Foreman a couple of times, he threw, by our count, only a single punch in the 2:49 the fight lasted – and he missed badly with that one. Foreman, in the meantime, chased his quarry around the ring hoping to catch up with him eventually, and LeBlanc cooperated, taking refuge on the canvas the first time Foreman got near him with a punch.
LeBlanc first went down from what referee John Zablocki ruled a slip but which could easily have been called a knockdown. Then he went down from what was almost certainly a slip, but Zablocki ruled this one a knockdown. When he saw the referee start counting, LeBlanc looked almost as grateful as Foreman did.
Once he got to “eight” with LeBlanc on his feet, the referee asked him if he wanted to continue, and was startled to hear him reply “No.”
Zablocki repeated the question. This time LeBlanc made his position even clearer.
“I’m all done,” he said.
Massachusetts Boxing Commission chairman Nick Manzello revealed that the Commission was withholding LeBlanc’s purse pending an investigation.
Four fights into the Boston card a profound cheer had gone up from the audience when Marcus Luck survived the first round of his bout with New Yorker Jorge Teron, thus finally facilitating the appearance of the first round-card girl of the evening. Up until that point Bernard Higgins, Sylvester Beard, and Anthony Hartman – a hapless trio of undercard opponents united by a common inability to hold their hands up for three minutes – had all bitten the dust before any of the lovelies could so much as climb into the ring.
And Luck (6-9-1), as it turned out, didn’t fare much better. Although he fought the first two rounds on pretty even terms with the unbeaten (now 10-0) Teron, he hurt his hand, or so he claimed, in the second, and retired on his stool before the bell could sound to initiate the third.
Super middleweight Chris Traetti of Quincy, a Westfield State College student, knocked down North Carolinian Higgins (0-1) three times en route to a first-round TKO. Although just three pounds separated the combatants in weight, Traetti, whose pro mark went to 3-0 with the win, had a substantial height advantage, and might have ended it even earlier had he not experienced early difficulty punching down at his undersized opponent. Midway through the first, Traetti finally managed to put Higgins down with a pair of well-placed body shots, and when he rose, put him down again with a two-handed fusillade of punches. Higgins got up yet again, only to go almost straight back down. Higgins had made it to his feet and appeared prepared to take even more punishment, but referee Zablocki waved the fight off just as the bell ended the first.
Fighting for just the second time as a pro, former New England Golden Gloves champion Simeon Dunwell (2-0) of Salem impressively TKO’d Beard, a Virginian from Luck’s Danville home making his pro debut. Half a minute into the fight, Dunwell rocked Beard with a hard right hand, sending the opponent backing into the corner as he tried to ward off the coming onslaught. The ensuing nonstop barrage of punches effectively pinned Beard against the ring pad, where Dunwell used him for a speed bag until referee Dick Flaherty intervened. Once the punches stopped coming, gravity took over, and Beard slid slowly and inexorably to the canvas, with Dunwell already celebrating in the other corner.
Pawtucket (RI) junior-welter Eddie Soto remained unbeaten at 4-0, stopping an overmatched Hartman (0-2) of Cleveland in the first when Zablocki rescued the opponent at 2:51 of the round. It seemed evident from this one that Soto at least knew how to fight, and that Hartman apparently did not.
“Where did they find these bums?” asked a disgruntled customer who had sought refuge on the sidewalk outside during intermission. “They must have dragged them out of the bar across the street!”
Wrong, he was told. A guy from the bar across the street would have put up a better fight.
John Duddy’s next fight, against the immortal Shelby Pudwill, will apparently be for another of those extraterrestrial titles – the WBC intercontinental championship, or some such – and while Duddy-Pudwill looms the piece de resistance for Irish Ropes’ March 16 “Shamrock Express” card, there will be a distinctly Hibernian cast to the entire evening.
Matthew Macklin, the 16-1 Birmingham middleweight who claims the Irish title and hence looms a possible future foe, will face a former Duddy victim, 29-12 Chicago veteran Patrick Coleman, in the co-feature, while Duddy’s Irish Ropes stablemate, Arklow junior middleweight James Moore, will fight Jose Felix (9-2-2) of Savannah, Ga. Bronx lightweight Maureen Shea (3-0) will box Ebony Clement-Bey (2-0, of Columbus, Ohio) on a bill that will also showcase the Clancy Brothers – 6-0 heavyweight James and 4-0-1 cruiserweight Mark – of Ennis, Co. Clare against opponents to be named later.
* * *
SUPER BRAWL I
PARK PLAZA CASTLE
Feb. 4, 2006
John Duddy, 162, Derry, Northern Ireland dec. Julio Jean, 164, Port Au Prince, Haiti (10)
Chris Traetti, 166, Quincy, Mass. TKO’d Bernard Higgins, 163, Raleigh-Durham, NC (1)
Yuri Foreman, 155, Gomel, Belarus TKO’d Jimmy LeBlanc, 152½, South Boston (1)
Eddie Soto, 139, Pawtucket, RI TKO’d Anthony Hartman, 135, Cleveland (1)
Jorge Teron, 136, Bronx, NY TKO’d Marcus Luck, 133 ½, Danville, Va. (2)
Simeon Dunwell, 134½, Salem, Mass. TKO’d Sylvester Beard, 129, Danville, Va. (1)
Of the World Heavyweight Champions Who is The Best?