NEW YORK – When George Washington decided to hang up his gloves for good in 1796, he left his fellow pugilists with an admonition to “avoid entangling alliances,” advice John Duddy’s managerial team appears to have taken to heart.
When the 26-year-old Irishman steps into the ring in Florida on Dec. 15 in search of his 14thprofessional win in as many tries, he will be fighting for his tenth different promoter, which could well be a modern-day record.
So far, anyway, Duddy’s career path resembles the early trajectory of Ray Charles Leonard after the latter turned pro following the 1976 Olympics, and Eddie McLoughlin, whose Irish Ropes has been bankrolling Duddy’s meteoric rise through the middleweight ranks, admits to having been influenced by the innovative roadmap laid out three decades earlier by Mike Trainer, Leonard’s attorney and advisor.
“We’ve studied the model of Leonard’s career,” said McLoughlin. “It was a sensible route to take.”
Of course, there’s one big difference. Leonard could afford to remain a promotional free agent, since from the outset his career was underwritten by the television networks.
“We know we’re going to make really big money only when television is interested,” said McLoughlin, “so you either sign up with a promoter or you promote it yourself and risk losing 20 or 30 thousand dollars a show. Or you do it the way we’ve done it.
“We haven’t been looking to beat anyone for big numbers,” McLoughlin explained. “We’ve mainly been looking to get him seen – but John was responsible for selling $63,000 worth of tickets for his last show (Cedric Kushner’s Nov. 4 card at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom).
Thus far Duddy has fought for Kushner, Bob Arum, Lou DiBella, Sal Musumeci, Joe DeGuardia, Rick Cappiello, Bobby Hitz, Northeast Promotions, and New England Ringside. It’s safe to say that every one of the above would love to sign Duddy. So would Don King and Dino Duva, both of whom have made runs at him, but McLoughlin is already looking at least three fights down the line with no intention of tying his fighter up with anybody.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said Duddy with a shrug.
“But we’re always willing to listen,” added Eddie McLoughlin.
The Dec. 15 show at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena is being promoted by Warrior’s Boxing. Assuming all goes well, the plan calls for Duddy to fight again in late January/early February, either in Las Vegas, on a Russell Peltz show in Philadelphia, or atop another New England Ringside card in Boston.
Then comes the big one: St. Patrick’s Day at the Garden. (Well, at the Theatre.)
“No disrespect to John’s next two opponents, but we’ve already reserved the Theatre for the night of March 16,” said McLoughlin. “It will be promoted by Irish Ropes. We’re registered as a promoter in New York State, and we’ve even got a name for the show: The Shamrock Express Rolls Through Madison Square Garden.
Duddy will headline the show, and if there has been some criticism about the quality of the Derry middleweight’s recent opposition, nobody’s going to complain about McLoughlin’s proposed St. Patrick’s Day foe – former IBF champion Luis Ramon (Yory Boy) Campas.
At 34, Campas is still a wily veteran closing in on 100 pro fights, and appears to be a big step up for Duddy. The Mexican’s record is 87-8, but those losses include five to world champions (Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Fernando Vargas, Jose Luis Lopez and David Santos) and another to Oba Carr. Moreover, at a stage in his career where many veteran ex-champions serve as cannon fodder for younger boxers headed in the opposite direction, Yory Boy has spoiled the career of many an up-and-comer like Duddy. In his last fight he knocked out fellow Sonoran Eseban Camou, who was 17-0 at the time. (Duddy will presumably be 15-0 by St. Patrick’s Day.)
Campas was also the guy who wrecked Tony Ayala’s comeback by snapping El Torito’s two-decade long unbeaten streak at 27-0, and not long ago added the scalp of Andres Pacheco, who was 13-1 when he ran into Campas.
Campas won the vacant NABF title in the Camou fight, and that belt will presumably be at stake in the New York main event. McLoughlin is looking to turn the St. Patrick’s eve card into an Irish-themed event, and plans to showcase Matt Macklin, the 15-1 Birmingham-based middleweight and potential future Duddy foe, along with Duddy’s stablemate, Arklow middleweight James Moore.
(Moore, 4-0, is nursing bruised ribs and won’t participate on next month’s Florida card. It was announced that he’d incurred the injury in his fight against Manji Conteh underneath Duddy-Brian Mackie at the Hammerstein earlier this month, which was a surprise to ringsiders, who couldn’t recall Conteh ever connecting to the body. Truth is, it turns out Moore was hurt sparring with Duddy a week earlier and took the injury into the ring with him.)
Duddy doesn’t yet have an announced foe for Dec. 15. McLoughlin thought he had lined up 23-10 Florida journeyman Darrell Woods for the date, “but Woods has stopped answering his phone, and I’m assuming we’re going to have to find another opponent.”
In his Nov. 4 fight Duddy knocked down former Canadian champion Mackie four times en route to a 4th-round TKO. In September in Mansfield, Mass, he whacked out a seemingly terrified Joe Brady in just over a minute to score his 8thfirst-round knockout – an impressive roster that includes a 1:23 conquest last March over then-undefeated Leonard Pierre at Foxwoods.
Duddy was born and raised in Derry, a hotbed of ‘The Troubles’ in the early 1970s. On Jan. 30, 1972, his uncle and namesake, Jackie Duddy, was the first of 13 civilians killed when British paratroopers opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on what would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Duddy’s deceased uncle was a promising amateur, and his father, Mickey Duddy, was a journeyman pro who sparred with the likes of Charlie Nash, Ken Buchanan, and Barry McGuigan. A boxing pedigree obviously courses through his veins, but despite coming from a nation which traditionally honors its slain martyrs, Duddy has gone almost overboard in his effort to avoid the appearance of capitalizing on the fate of his late Uncle Jackie.
“His name was John Francis Duddy and my name is John Francis Duddy,” Duddy told us a few months ago. “He was a fighter and I’m a fighter, but I didn’t become a fighter because he was a fighter. It had nothing to do with me. It all happened years before I was even born.”
Duddy’s rise has been eyed with growing interest back in his homeland. Although he won an All-Ireland championship at light middleweight, he was scarcely the banger he has become as a professional, and when they left Ireland most would have assumed that James Moore would have been the more promising of the two.
Along with Moore, Duddy trains under Harry Keitt at the Irish Ropes Gym in Far Rockaway. Keitt, a Brooklyn native, was better known for training amateurs (Dmitriy Salita among them) before hooking up with the Irish Connection. Almost 15 years ago he was featured in a boxing film called “On the Ropes,” which traced the star-crossed careers of three young amateurs trained by Keitt.
“Harry has some different training methods,” said Duddy. “One of the things we do out there is hitting a lorry tire with a sledgehammer for 20 minutes after each session.
“Boxers from Jack Dempsey to Ali to George Foreman used to chop wood in their training camps,” Duddy continued, “but as Harry says, if you start cutting down trees in New York City, they’re going to put you in jail.”
Duddy’s Florida appearance, his first pay-per-view fight, will be as part of a multi-national cast on what the promoters are billing as “Global Warfare.” Besides the Irishman, the dramatis personae will include a Nigerian (heavyweight Samuel Peter, who tries to bounce back from his September loss to Wladimir Klitschko against Robert Hawkins in the main event), a Colombian (welterweight Juan Urango, who fights former WBC lightweight champion Cesar Bazan on the undercard), a Canadian (light-heavyweight Dale Brown), and, of course, a Russian (Sultan Ibragimov, who will engage in a rematch of last Wednesday afternoon’s main event against Lance Whitaker at Gallagher’s Steak House).
We must confess to having missed this particular matinee. Once our conversation with Duddy, McLoughlin, and Keitt had concluded we took our leave of the premises, and were consequently not around when the glasses, silverware, and crockery started flying around the room. As usually happens in these impromptu press conference brawls, neither Goofy nor the Sultan got a scratch, but a would-be peacemaker was knocked cold and carted off to the hospital in an ambulance.
When we heard later that day that that a freeloader had been kayoed at Gallagher’s, we briefly entertained the fantasy that Goofy might have decked Bert Sugar, but, alas, the victim turned out to have been Ibragimov’s ‘advisor,’ Sampson Lewkowicz, who was treated and released later that day.