NEWARK, N.J. — “He got his a** handed to him tonight by a ‘B’ fighter,” said Jack Loew in what you’d have to admit is a fairly scathing indictment of John Duddy’s performance, considering that Loew happens to be the trainer of the ‘B’ fighter.

To hear Loew tell it, Duddy’s legions of fans weren’t all that abandoned him Friday night at the Prudential Center. In the view of the man who also trains middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, the leprechauns who had stood sentinel over the Irishman’s unbeaten record also declined to cross the Hudson.

In what was inescapably a lacklustre and listless performance, Duddy, who came into the bout 26-0 and ranked the No. 2 middleweight in the world, wound up on the short end of a split decision and lost a fight to a guy who isn’t even ranked the second-best middleweight in Ohio.

Duddy’s new connections weren’t eager to take many chances in this one, but it’s hard to imagine they could have chosen a safer opponent than Billy Lyell, an ET-lookalike with a 18-7 record who had managed to stop just three of his 25 professional opponents – and two of those were guys who’d never won a fight.

“There are no easy fights,” Duddy had reminded us less than 48 hours earlier, and as Friday night’s bout wore on he surely had occasion to reflect on that sentiment.

Rising to the occasion – and responding to Loew’s exhortations from the corner, Lyell fought the fight of his life on a night when it just wasn’t there for Duddy.  He had the Irishman cut above the left eyebrow in the third round (a punch, ruled referee Allen Huggins; “I thought it was from his head,” claimed Duddy), and when Mark Vaz fixed that one in the corner, he cut him again in the seventh, just above the first wound. Lyell spilled some blood of his own, mostly from a cut across the bridge of his nose, but it didn’t seem to slow him down.

Duddy, in his third fight under trainer Pat Burns, was able to box effectively in his new, more disciplined style for the first two rounds. In the early going the Irishman was even hooking off the jab, but once the cut appeared he seemed to transform himself back into the wild-swinging, incautious Duddy of old, and Lyell was able to capitalize with his awkwardly aggressive style.

It probably wasn’t the 98-92 rout that Jersey judge John Stewart reflected on his scorecard. Duddy said afterward that he thought he had done enough to win and many ringsiders – and one judge – agreed with him. (Larry Layton had Duddy up 96-94, as did The Sweet Science.) Tom Kaczmarek’s 97-93 verdict in Lyelll’s favor sealed the decision. Still, there’s no question that even had he squeaked out a win on this night it would have been a very disappointing performance against a guy who wasn’t supposed to last more than five rounds.

From his position as Pavlik’s mentor, Loew has been monitoring Duddy’s title pretensions for a couple of years now, and said his only worry after the bout was that the Derry Destroyer might be allowed to steal another undeserved win.

“It’s about time,” said Loew. “They’ve been protecting him, trying to keep him clean for Pavlik, but if that fight had happened it would have been murderous. I thought he lost to Walid Smichet and he struggled against (Matt) Vanda.

“I’d told Billy ‘Duddy can’t get out of the way of a straight punch,’ and he listened,” said Loew. “And once he knew he was in a fight he was just standing there waiting to be hit.”

In its first bout working with Duddy, Main Events had pulled out all the stops, with an Irish-themed street fair outside the Pru and a bagpipe-dominated rock band called The Shots entertaining the crowd inside, but the net result was that there may have been more bagpipers on hand than Irish boxing fans. Attendance was generously estimated at 2,500. Two months earlier, Polish cruiserweight Tomasz Adamak put 6,000 in the stands under the same configuration.

Beyond the result, it was the fifth consecutive time Duddy, who began his career by knocking out 13 of his first 14 opponents, had been extended the distance. His title hopes have clearly been dashed, and it may be back to the drawing board yet again if he hopes to revive his career. Duddy was taken to hospital after the bout for stitches. His own advisor, Craig Hamilton, admitted that Lyell won the bout.

Gabriel Rosado, the Philadelphia junior middle who knocked former Duddy stablemate James Moore from the ranks of the unbeaten in Brooklyn last year, took an even bigger scalp on the Newark card, posting a split decision win over former IBF champion Kassim Ouma.

Even though Ouma seemed to somnambulate through much of the night, his superior hand speed allowed him to land with his jab, and Rosado spent much of the night in retreat. Once he did decide to stand his ground he made a fight of it, raining several right hands off Ouma’s head in the ninth and then taking the fight to the Ugandan veteran in the final stanza.  Rosado won each of the last two rounds on all three scorecards, and as it turned out he needed them. Layton (97-93) and Stewart (96-94) both scored for Rosado, now 11-4, while Kaczmarek had Ouma up, 96-94.  Ouma, who had lost three in a row beginning with his 2006 loss to Jermain Taylor before righting the ship with a win over unheralded Martinus Clay, dropped to 26-6-1 with the latest loss.

With an approving Adamek watching at ringside, Polish middleweight Premyslaw Majeski improved to 10-0 with a 7th-round TKO of Ohioan James Lubash, now 13-2. Majeski dominated from the outset, and in the sixth Lubash backed across the ring and took a knee. A round later a series of body shots drove him to the canvas. On both occasions Lubash, deaf since chlldhood, alertly watched referee Allen Huggins and rose at the count of eight, but when Majeski landed the next punch to his unprotected nose, Huggins waved it off without argument at 1:18.

Hank Lundy, a Philadelphia prospect now boxing out of Providence, knocked out previously unbeaten Jason Cintron (10-1) to run his unbeated record to 13-0-1. Lundy was beating Cintron to the punch for most of the night, and midway through the fifth had rocked him with a three-punch combination. Referee David Franciosa appeared on the verge of stopping it, but Lundy rendered the issue moot by delivering a coup de grace — in the form of a left uppercut – before the ref could get there, and Cintron was counted out at 1:36.

Jersey City cruiserweight Patrick Farrell won for the second time in as many pro outings with a quick TKO of an overmatched Doug Bowling (0-2) of Wooster, Ohio. Farrell knocked Bowling down the first time he looked at him, and then drove him through the ropes to score a second knockdown. When stumbled as he tried to beat Franciosa’s count – and he didn’t try very hard – the referee waved it off at 1:06 of the first.

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APRIL 24, 2009

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Billy Lyell, 155, Warren, Ohio dec.John Duddy,157, Derry, Northern Ireland (10)

Przemyslaw Majewski, 157, Radom, Poland TKO’d James Lubash, 157, Pittsburgh, Pa. (7)

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Patrick Ferrell, 195 ½, Jersey City, NJ TKO’d Doug Bowling, 195 ½, Wooster, Ohio (1)

JUNIOR MIDDLES: Gabriel Rosado, 154 ½,  Philadelphia, Pa. dec. Kassim Ouma, 154, Kampala, Uganda (10)

JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: Henry Lundy,137, Philadelphia KO’d Jason Cintron, 137, Reading, Pa. (5)