“Ireland’s” John Duddy (19-0, 15 KOs) held a press conference in midtown Manhattan on Thursday afternoon to promote his May 18 IBA World  Middleweight championship defense. A good crowd and good eats were on hand on a miserably cold and wet afternoon. Missing, however, was an opponent. Duddy’s team claims that they should have that minor detail worked out by next week.

The May 18 card at New York’s Beacon Theatre is also set to feature middleweight up-and-comers Pawel “Raging Bull” Wolak (14-0, 9 KOs) and Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (10-0, 9 KOs). Irish Ropes Promotions is also working on adding two undefeated females: Maureen Shea, who was Hillary Swank’s sparring partner in training for “Million Dollar Baby” and Eileen Miyoko Kuwaye-Olszewski (Miyoko K.O.), a former Knicks City Dancer turned boxer.

But the big story is obviously Duddy. It was announced that this will be his last fight in America in 2007 and possibly 2008. Apparently, Europe has been clamoring for his return (if I am not mistaken, the Derry, Northern Ireland native originally came here because he was not getting enough respect at home) and Duddy has an opportunity to win over fans and draw a big time gate as he returns home decorated with a belt (ideally).

“We’ve been inundated with requests for him to fight in Europe,” said Irish ropes president Eddie McLoughlin. “His popularity continues to grow and some say he’s as popular over there as he is here (New York)…John’s tentatively scheduled to fight July 7 at the National Stadium in Ireland. He will be the sole draw on that card and we’re going to see how fast he sells out there. We’ll gauge his performance and popularity off that fight and then discuss a possible European title fight in the late summer or Early fall in Ireland.”

Duddy is undeniably a fast-rising star in the boxing industry and some have even tabbed him as the Irish Oscar De La Hoya due to his combination of skills and marketability. He was calm and confident today and said he will be ready for his fight in May since “I haven’t had time to fall out of shape since my last fight” on March 16.

Thus far Duddy knows the Beacon Theatre as a place where he saw Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Soon enough, he’ll remember the Beacon Theatre as the place he knocked out TBA. Let’s hope TBA makes it worthwhile for all of us!

More to come on Duddy as the fight approaches.

In the meantime, tickets ($50-$300) are available by calling Irish Ropes Promotions at 212-835-1582 or TicketMaster at 212-307-7171.