Monday, March 19, 2007

The Friends of Sinn Fein held a "Pre Fight" party at Seven Restaurant in New York City on Friday, 16 March, to celebrate Derry's own John Duddy's appearance in the "Erin Go Brawl" event at the Madison Square Garden Theatre on Friday March 16th.

Photographed at the celebration were: Legendary boxer Joe Frazier, Micheal McMahon (Bundoran/NY), and Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Martin McGuinness. Thanks to Nuala Purcell for the photograph.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


On Friday night, as the Wolfe Tones play, he'll carry the tricolor Irish flag into the ring of the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Thousands of Irish New Yorkers, most from area code 718, will stand and cheer on the day before St. Patrick's Day in a fight card dubbed Erin Go Brawl .

His name is John Duddy, he's 27, and he slugged his way out of the rugged streets of Derry, Northern Ireland, to become a serious middleweight contender for the title.

These days, he trains in Gleason's Gym in downtown Brooklyn, and this movie-star handsome "black" Irishman with a chin like the Blarney Stone can punch with both hands.

On Friday night, he fights Anthony (The Bullet) Bonsante, 29-8-2.

I became a Duddy fan by rooting for one of his opponents. A few years back, some boxing friends touted a new phenom named Leonard Pierre, trained by Kevin Rooney. A bunch of us crowded around a TV in Bay Ridge, expecting a Pierre rout.

But here came this unknown Irish kid who looks like one of the cast of "The Black Donnellys," stalking across the ring with wicked intentions, pure guts, and honed skills. He starched Pierre inside two minutes.

"This guy is gonna fight for the title," I said. And soon he will, in the most exciting division in boxing today.

Forget the heavyweight division. You'll see better fights between the Democratic presidential contenders.

But today's middleweight boxing division has an all-star lineup - Jermaine Taylor, Winky

Wright, Oscar de la Hoya, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather, Kelly Pavlik, Bernard Hopkins.

Last year, in a grueling 12-round slugfest against a seasoned pug named Ramon (Yuri Boy) Campas, Duddy suffered 24 stitches, endured some of the toughest rounds of his career, and still punched out a unanimous decision.

"People asked me what I learned in the Campas fight," Duddy says. "I learned I wanted to be a fighter. Because if I didn't, there were a million good reasons that night to say this game's not for me."

With a pro record of 18-0 with 15 KOs - nine in the first round - Duddy has become a sensation amongst the Irish boxing fans in New York. Since turning pro in 2003, this is the fourth time Duddy's fought in the Theater of the Garden and the fourth time he's sold out the place. Friday's card is also available on pay-per-view.

"New Yorkers think of Madison Square Garden and they think of the Knicks, Rangers and great concerts," says Duddy. "I love all that, too. But, see, back home in Ireland, and the rest of the world, you mention Madison Square Garden and people immediately think about the boxing mecca of the world. So for me to fight there, to sell out the Theater, to hear the roar of the crowd, is an unbelievable honor."

Managed by Eddie McLoughlin, Duddy is now ranked fifth by the World Boxing Organization and ninth by the World Boxing Association. Serious boxing fans know that there is only one middleweight champion, and that's Jermaine Taylor. His belt is Duddy's goal.

"I love New York," Duddy told me last week from his training camp in Vero Beach, Fla. "I only come down here to train to get away from all the distractions. But I'm a New Yorker now. I love the theater, museums, restaurants, the boxing people. I love Gleason's Gym."

A former lifeguard and postal worker in Derry, Duddy says boxing is his full-time job now. He lives in Queens, where he runs in a public park in the morning but then heads straight to Brooklyn to what he calls the best boxing gym in the world. "By noon, I'm in Gleason's, working with my trainer Harry Keitt, skipping rope, hitting the bags, sparring," Duddy says. "At night, me and [girlfriend] Grainne might have a meal, or go to a Mets game."

Duddy's father was a boxer who sparred with Barry McGuigan. "I first got interested in boxing at 5 when I went with me Da to the gym," says Duddy. "I loved it. But he wouldn't let me go back until I was 10. I loved all sports - soccer, basketball, swimming. But there's something special about boxing. It's just you and the other guy. It's a sport with no excuses, where you can't blame a teammate. It teaches you who you are and what you're made of."

Duddy had an Uncle John (Jackie) Duddy, who at 17 was the youngest and first of the 13 unarmed victims shot dead by British soldiers on Jan. 30, 1972, the dark day in Irish history called Bloody Sunday that kicked off the Troubles that lasted a quarter-century.

"I grew up at the tail end of the Troubles," says Duddy. "So they never affected me. But thank God it seems to have stopped because I'm a New Yorker now, chasing the American Dream, and I don't fight for anybody but myself."