Duddy displays a new-found discipline


BOXING MIDDLEWEIGHT CONTEST: OVER THE five years he has boxed in the United States he has heretofore been billed, simply, as “Ireland’s John Duddy”, but he was introduced under a new nom de guerre– The Derry Destroyer – prior to Saturday night’s fight against Matt Vanda at Madison Square Garden.

The new handle may have been something of a misnomer in that the destruction of his opponent did not appear to be a priority, but the Derry middleweight’s performance against Vanda was a disciplined and controlled rendition that allowed him to post a lopsided points victory over a willing but overmatched journeyman opponent in the chief supporting bout to the Miguel Cotto-Michael Jennings welterweight title bout.

In the main event, Cotto regained the WBO championship, decking the outgunned Englishman three times on the way to a fifth-round stoppage.

Duddy remained undefeated with his 26th professional win, but it was the fourth consecutive outing in which he had been extended the distance.

The Irishman had opened his professional career by knocking out 13 of his first 14 opponents, seven of them in less than three minutes, but the makeover effected by new trainer Pat Burns may serve him better as he ventures into deeper waters.

The new and improved version of Duddy on display Saturday night was able to rely on his clear advantage in hand speed, and used a piston-like jab to outbox Vanda for most of the night without exposing himself to real danger.

That Duddy enjoyed a substantial edge in the category was confirmed by the final CompuBox tally, which revealed that Duddy not only connected with 158 jabs to Vanda’s 87, but that the Irishman averaged nearly 45 jabs a round over the 10-round distance. While 291 of those failed to find their target, the relentless salvo did serve to keep Vanda off-balance, and prevented the rugged midwesterner from mounting an attack of his own

Although his furious abandon and penchant for turning even routine bouts into all-out brawls had endeared him to American audiences, Duddy refused to succumb to the temptation to engage in a slugfest, even when the crowd grew predictably restive as the fight wore on.

Hopelessly behind on the scorecards, Vanda threw caution to the winds in a last-gasp assault in which he had Duddy reeling from several hard shots, but the Derryman not only weathered that storm but emerged from the bout without a single drop of blood having been spilled.

With seconds to go, Vanda, clearly elated at having survived the 10-round distance, thrust his gloves into the air as Duddy grinned in response, and at the final bell the two fell into one another’s arms in a heartfelt embrace.

“He hadn’t done anything up until then, so he had to do something,” Duddy shrugged off Vanda’s late rally. “He did kick the wee out of me a little bit in that last round, but I’m still standing.”

“If I’d started earlier I could have put him away,” claimed Vanda.

The American carried the final three minutes on the scorecards of all three ringside judges, but it was the only round he won on two of them, as Julie Lederman and Robin Taylor both returned 99-91 verdicts.

The third scoring official, Robert Signorelli, had Duddy winning by a 97-92 margin.

The defeat was the 30-year-old Vanda’s ninth in a 48-bout career.