Sunday, June 29, 2008

When Less Could Be More

BOSTON - Only minutes earlier, John Duddy had finished a spirited ten rounds with Charlie Howe in the old gun room of the muggy Castle at Park Plaza in Boston. But as he stood in the makeshift dressing room in the basement of the 117 year-old armory, it was dank and cool.

Duddy was still bathed in warm sweat when trainer Pat Burns made his way down the dark and winding staircase and he saw Duddy with his arm around Howe's shoulder. Burns knew right away that if his fighter stood there in the chill like that for long he'd end up catching a cold.

"Get his robe on, get John his robe," said Burns to no one in particular.

Duddy got back on track with the unanimous decision win over Howe on Saturday night and he electrified the standing room only crowd of 1,300 while notching his 25th straight win.

It was the first fight that Burns and Duddy had spent together as a team and now it was now time for Burns to give his thoughts to a few of us that had cornered him in the bowels of the medieval stone structure.

When asked what he thinks the next move should be for Duddy, Burns took little time in offering his opinion. "His management has to make a decision on that," he responded.

"I like him at 154. He made 158 for this fight with absolutely no problems. We taught him how to eat, he ate all he wanted. As a matter of fact, on the day of the weigh-in he had a big breakfast, he drank plenty of fluids."

Nobody had given much thought or had previously spoke of Duddy at 154 pounds, but it makes sense. Duddy is not a big middleweight by any stretch and at his height and with his medium-sized frame it seems his body would fit better into a 154-pound suit.

"It's something that he would have to buy into, " continued Burns. "I asked him a couple-three weeks ago, 'Do you feel like you could make it?' And he said, 'Easy'.

"I think he's a big '54 pounder and I think he's just an average to small '60 pounder," said Burns, who knows a thing or two about middleweights seeing as how he steered Jermain Taylor to the middleweight championship against Bernard Hopkins a few years back.

Now, however, the man to beat at 160 pounds is the undefeated, champion Kelly Pavlik and he is as large as middleweights get with a height and reach that are heavyweight in dimension.

"It's better to be the big guy in the division than the small guy in the division, and Pavlik is definitely the big guy in the division," said Burns.

"But that's a decision his team will have to make. I've voiced my opinion. I think he's a '54 pounder and the most important thing is that I think John has bought into it. And it makes life a lot easier when the kid believes that he feels he should be down another division."

Burns, attired in the track suit, back when he was the trainer of Jermain Taylor (left). Also pictured are Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins.

So why after all of these years campaigning as a 160-pound fighter and being on the verge of a title shot, does Burns suddenly think Duddy should drop down a division?

"I don't think he had real good eating habits," explained Burns. "I just think once he learned how to eat properly, he was eating three, four times a day and drinking tons of fluids and he was amazed at the way the weight was coming off. I don't know if you guys have seen his body but he looks good. We had him on a strength program. He was working out three times a day."

The pairing of Burns and Duddy looks like a good match for the 29 year-old Irishman and Burns seems encouraged by what he has seen so far.

"I think he got a real professional camp this time and I think he learned a lot of different things," said Burns. "The most important thing is the kid is willing to listen and to learn. And I was telling Mark Vaz as I was in the corner as this thing was going on, 'Jesus, look at this kid he really listens.' The stuff we were instructing, you know, he was actually doing."

However, Burns, like a mutual fund prospectus, is cautious when he makes assertions regarding Duddy's future.

"He's got a long way to go, but I'm happy with his performance. He's a great kid, too. I think he's a great representative of his country, Ireland, but he certainly loves Boston and New York," said Burns.

"He seems to have a nice fan base, everybody seems to like him. If he stays a gentleman out of the ring, I think he has a real opportunity."

June 2008

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