2008-02-29 / Sports

Victorious Duddy Not Ready For Title Shot With Pavlik

By Elio Velez

John Duddy heard the cheers, received congratulations and raised his hand in victory last Saturday night as the Ireland born fighter won in a majority decision over Walid Smichet at Madison Square Garden.

While retuning to New York for his first bout since fighting in Ireland for most of last year, Duddy didn't smile as much as he's done in previous bouts.

But if someone who didn't see the middleweight bout looked at Duddy's bloodied and cut-up-face after the fight, the observer could have wondered if the Derry County, Ireland born fighter had actually lost.

Duddy improved to 24-0 but struggled at times during his 10-round fight on the undercard of the Wladimir Klitschko- Sultan Ibragimov heavyweight bout.

The fight will be replayed on MSG Network this Sunday night at 8 p.m.

If Duddy had easily dispatched Smichet or had a sound performance, his victory would have paved the way for a world middleweight title shot in June with undefeated Kelly Pavlik.

But that possible fight has been cast aside for the near future. Cuts to Duddy's eyes, a result of the punishment that Smichet gave the Derry County born fighter, was bad enough that he will have to heal and wait for his first world title shot. A huge gash on Duddy's left eye required 22 stitches and his right eye needed 10 stitches.

While he displayed experience and toughness in defeating Smichet, it was apparent to Duddy that he wasn't impressed with his own performance.

"My head wasn't right. I didn't fight the right fight. I think I was just trying to impress too much," Duddy said to the Belfast Telegraph.

"It was so strange because I had been working so well in the gym with some top guys."

Duddy might have been trying to impress because a victory over Smichet would have guaranteed him a world title shot.

But his average performance meant Duddy's shot at a world middleweight title shot with undefeated champion Kelly Pavlik has been shelved for now.

The Irish Ropes, which promotes Duddy, had been in talks of scheduling a June title fight at Madison Square Garden with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who oversees Pavlik.

But Arum will instead schedule another opponent for Pavlik which will most likely be undefeated Giovanni Lorenzo (26-0) from Washington Heights at the Garden or in Atlantic City.

"Duddy can fight Kelly down the road in September or November," Arum said. "Duddy would figure in there but it's silly for him to rush through everything if the cuts are as bad as we're hearing."

Though Duddy bounced back and had outworked Smichet, he wasn't as defensive as in fights past.

Asecond cut opened on Duddy's right eye in the seventh round, which not as serious as the huge gash on his other eye, still was noticeable by the 14,000 who had gathered in attendance.

Smichet tired after landing his haymakers and Duddy took advantage by connecting with his powerful hands.

While victorious, Duddy knows that he still needs to work with trainer Don Turner to improve on his defense. If Smichet was a stronger puncher, there would have been a greater chance that he would have floored his opponent.

And while Duddy recovers from injuries, by no means is he out of the world title picture. Duddy is still popular and has a huge fanbase not only when he trained at the former Irish Ropes gym in Arverne but also throughout the city.

If Duddy can bounce back with a good performance in his next fight, thne talks will once again heat up for a title fight with Pavlik.

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