Duddy: "It will be explosive and exciting!"

By George Kimball


Duddy: "It will be explosive and exciting!"

At 10:30 pm on Wednesday, March 14 – two nights before he faces Anthony Bonsante at the Madison Square Garden Theatre -- the MSG Network will offer the first of what will probably be several airings of a documentary BBC-Northern Ireland recently produced about John Duddy. The name of the program? “The Contender.”

Yeah, I know. My reaction was probably the same as yours, to wit: “Does Stallone know about this?”

It is by the purest of coincidences that two nights after the US television premier of the BBC “Contender” Duddy will be fighting Bonsante, whose principal claim to boxing fame remains his participation in the American reality show of the same name, but it does add a nice touch to a Friday night boxing card that has already been sold out for three weeks.

Unfortunately for would-be patrons, but fortunately for Irish Ropes, which is not only promoting Friday’s “Erin Go Brawl” card at the 5,000-seat Theatre but masterminding a worldwide pay-per-view telecast as well, the fight will be available, presumably at a price, at dozens of Irish saloons around Manhattan, as well as for home consumption.

Al Bernstein is being brought in to do the televised blow-by-blow, while the color mike will be shared by an Irishman (former featherweight contender Barry McGuigan) and an Irish-American (former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney).

It will be the second straight St. Patrick’s Eve Duddy has headlined a card at the Garden Theatre. Last year’s appearance turned out to be a cameo, as he blasted out opponent Shelby Pudwill in less than a round.

Bonsante, if nothing else, should last a bit longer, and as the fight goes on he could wind up testing the recuperative powers of the serious cuts Duddy sustained in his last fight, a September points win over former world champion Yory Boy Campas.

According to their contracts, Duddy, the undefeated middleweight from Derry City, has been guaranteed $20,000 (to Bonsante’s $30,000), but the Irishman will also receive a percentage of the live and television gates that should bring his end well into six figures.

Duddy’s countryman and fellow unbeaten middleweight, Limerick’s Andy Lee, will by contrast be paid $5,000 for his 6-round prelim against former WBA junior middleweight champion Carl Daniels.

Lee-Daniels, at 9:05 pm, will kick off the televised portion of Friday’s Erin Go Brawl show, followed by the Giovanni Lorenzo-Robert Kamya welterweight co-feature and, eventually, the main event. Should any of those three end quickly, and perhaps even if they don’t, producers hope to squeeze in tape of Bronx 130-pounder Maureen Shea’s fight against Mexican Eva Lidia Silva.

Three other Irish-born boxers will also appear on the undercard. The Clancy Brothers (heavyweight James and cruiserweight Mark) of Ennis, County Clare, will face, respectively, Rodney Ray and Andrew Hutchinson, while welterweight Henry Coyle, like Duddy, Lee, and James Clancy a former All Ireland Amateur champion, will meet New Jerseyite Jason Collazo in what will be the pro debut for both contestants.

Adding to the St. Patrick’s Eve atmosphere will be a half-hour performance by a noted Irish folk group, The Wolfe Tones.

Although fight fans shouldn’t make too much of the fact that Duddy and Lee are boxing on the same card, some will inevitably do just that, but a meeting between the two, if one ever does happen, looms in the far distant future.

“It’s a typical Irish thing,” said Lee with some amusement. “We haven’t had a top middleweight since Steve Collins. Now there are two of us, and they already want us to fight each other.”

Lee didn’t even know who he would be fighting until Daniels, his fifth nominated opponent, agreed to the bout on Tuesday, but then Bonsante wasn’t Duddy’s original choice of opponents either.  When Erin Go Brawl was first laid out on the drawing board, Duddy was going to fight another Minnesota middleweight, Matt Vanda.”

“When they fought at the Target Center two months ago,” publicist Bob Trieger recalled at Wednesday’s press conference at Jack Dempsey’s saloon, “I told (the Irish Ropes people) ‘Don’t be surprised if Bonsante beats Matt Vanda.”

Bonsante did just that, posting a unanimous decision and earning himself a place on what New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens labeled “The Duddy Phenomenon.”

“I plan to use my age and experience to see what I can do with him,” said Bonsante. “Neither of us us going to have to find the other one. We’ll both be right there.”

“Whether it goes one round or 12 rounds, it will be explosive and exciting,” promised Duddy. “Hopefully I’ll give the fans something else to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day.”


Send questions and comments to: gkimball@boxingtalk.com