Saturday, February 14, 2009

John Duddy is One of the Good Guys

John Duddy has a legion of fans that always show their support and the young Irishman is always happy to see them.

The general feeling is that boxers are the most accessible and down to earth athletes there are. Most of them are quick with a smile, happy to sign an autograph and are easygoing when a fan asks for a moment of their time.

And I would say, aside from a few exceptions, that I would agree with that overall characterization of prizefighters.

But some of the guys can be difficult.

There was the windy April night in Denver, Colorado back in 1997 that I sat with a bloated, 260-pound Michael Dokes in his dressing room at the decrepit Aztlan Theater in Denver, Colorado.

The 38 year-old Dokes, a former WBA heavyweight titlist, was pretty much at the end of the line as a prizefighter and he was in no mood to relive old times as he had his hands wrapped for a fight against club fighter Louis Monaco.

Dokes’ voice barely rose above a raspy whisper, he never removed his sunglasses and he wouldn’t allow any pictures to be taken. He did say that he was doing well financially and that he owned homes in Miami and Las Vegas.

But Dokes’ purse on that night was $2,500 and the ramshackle ring had real rope for ropes (like you’d see in a rodeo) and only one big spotlight illuminated what, for Dokes, was otherwise a very dark night.

Michael 'Dynamite' Dokes in one of his final fights. Dokes was not always happy to have his picture taken or be the center of attention.

He was dropped in the second round, had his nose broken, shed a good amount of blood and got beat from pillar to post by the hometown son for ten straight rounds. Immediately after the decision was announced, Dokes climbed down out of the ring and hastily stormed out through the back door of the theater and into the Colorado night.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. can also be downright surly. In May 2006, I made the honest mistake one night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas of asking him just how much money he was going to need in order to get into a ring with Oscar De La Hoya.

Floyd (pictured below) snapped that, “I don't come up into your job asking you how much you make, so don’t come up into mine asking me,” and then he went on to tell me that he was better than ’Sugar’ Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

So, like anything else, you learn to take the good with the bad.

And having said that I can tell you that ‘Ireland’s’ John Duddy is definitely one of the good guys.

The last time I saw Duddy was on a muggy night this past June at ‘The Castle’ in Boston, Mass., which is right up there, in my humble estimation, as one of the best fight venues there is. He had just finished pounding on Grelton, Ohio’s Charlie Howe and the immediate future looked very bright for him. Duddy fought in front of a full house of 1,500 and it was his first fight with new trainer Pat Burns. A title shot was rumored to be next.

After the fight we gathered in the makeshift dressing room in the dank and cool basement of the 117 year-old building which once served as an armory. Duddy embraced Howe and thanked him for the fight and then he dutifully began answering questions while still wearing his robe and trunks.

Duddy thoughtfully contemplated each question posed by the small collection of reporters. Blood leaked down the side of his face from a small cut over his right eye, but he was patient, and in a way, charming really. He has a boyish quality about him and he is a well-spoken and handsome young man.

So I was saddened when earlier this year I heard that he was having promotional and managerial problems with the Mcloughlin brothers of Irish Ropes Promotions. It definitely sounded as though Duddy was on the wrong end of some questionable financial dealings and that he was the latest in a long line of victims in the shady accounting practices accepted as the norm in the world of professional boxing.

But Duddy has apparently managed to break free from the clutches of his previous paymasters and on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden he makes his much anticipated return on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto vs. Michael Jennings welterweight title fight. Duddy will compete in a ten-rounder against the always tough Matt Vanda. The fight is part of a televised ‘split’ pay-per view card headlined in Youngstown, Ohio by middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik.

Now being advised by Craig Hamilton and Gary Friedman, Duddy is part of a show being promoted by Bob Arum. For a nice guy like Duddy it’s a pleasing sight to see him back where he belongs - in a boxing ring in New York City.

“It’s great to be back,” said a somewhat reserved Duddy, who seemed a bit taken aback to be introduced to the vortex of what is sometimes a very dirty business. “I’ve been away from the ring a while now and I’m looking forward to getting my career back, hopefully to a good start.”

From Derry, Northern Ireland to Times Square in New York City, Duddy sells tickets and the fans love to watch him.

With an undefeated record of 25-0 (17)KO, Duddy is also happy to be back in his old stomping grounds at Madison Square Garden. This will be his seventh fight in ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’ which is a place where he can always be counted on to sell several thousand tickets.

“I think it’ll be a very exciting fight between me and Matt,” said Duddy through his thick Irish brogue. “I’ve seen Matt fight a few times before and I’m sure he’s seen me and as you know, the two of us, we’re full of courage and we’re full of guts. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight and I can’t wait to get the show on the road.”

Bob Arum was also quite happy to have the chance to work with Duddy. The innovative 78 year-old promoter has always been about selling tickets and Duddy is a proven commodity in that regard.

“One thing about John, if he is successful in this fight with Matt Vanda, is that he looks out at a vista of tremendous opportunities,” says Arum.

“There’s a possible fight with Yuri Foreman which would sell out Madison Square Garden. There’s Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., and if he and John are both successful in their next fights, who knows, they might be fighting as early as this summer - that’s a major, major fight. If Kelly wins Saturday night in Youngstown wouldn’t it be spectacular to have Kelly’s next middleweight title defense against John? There’s a lot of possibilities. We’re privileged to have John on this card and we think he adds a lot to this card.”

And that’s nice to hear, because John Duddy is one of the good guys.

February 2009

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