Irish middleweight, John Duddy retires at 31

Late Tuesday, the “Derry Destroyer” John Duddy (29-2-0, with 18 KOs) surprised his legions of fans when he released the following statement to the Press:

“After a great deal of soul-searching, I have decided to retire from boxing,” said the 31-year-old. “In many ways, continuing to fight would be the easy course of action. I have been offered the opportunity to fight Andy Lee on HBO for a purse in excess of $100,000. A win would put me in position to fight for a world championship. This is not an opportunity that I cast aside lightly. I started watching my father train in the gym when I was five years old. I began fighting competitively at age 10. For more than 20 years, I loved being a boxer. I still feel that it’s an enormous honor to be a boxer.


“But I don’t love it anymore. I no longer have the enthusiasm and willingness to make the sacrifices that are necessary to honor the craft of prizefighting. I used to love going to the gym. Now it’s a chore. I wish I still had the hunger, but I don’t. The fire has burned out. And I know myself well enough to know that it won’t return.”

Like other boxers, Duddy may find the urge to return to the sport but as of today, that feeling is gone. His manager Craig Hamilton is hoping for a return: “We had a conversation about this [at the end of last year] and I said, ‘Look, if you want to retire be aware that if you do it, you will be leaving some good fights and money on the table and I don’t want you to do it and then say, ‘I made a mistake.’

“I didn’t want him to come back three years down the road and say, ‘what if?’ He made his decision. I would hope he never comes back because to leave with opportunities in front of you, they won’t be there when you come back.”

Before Duddy’s decision, his long-anticipated clash with Andy Lee, which was several years in the making, had been set at the Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. According to the plan, HBO was to broadcast the scheduled 10-rounder on March 12, just prior to St. Patrick’s Day on the undercard of Sergio Martinez’ WBC title defense against Serhiy Dzinziruk.

Sports Digest/Boxing quoted Emanuel Steward, the once-beaten Lee’s trainer/manager who had long pursued this fight with Duddy, as predicting it would be the biggest fight in Irish history since the legendary showdown between Jack Dempsey and Jack Tunney in 1927. In his place, the show’s promoter, Lou DiBella, is reportedly pursuing undefeated Scotsman Craig McEwan as Duddy’s replacement.

July 15, 2006, lifelong Celtic supporters and John Duddy fans, Seamus, Peter and Charlie stop by Dempsey's Bar in New York to share a draft with the Irish middleweight.

I know one group of sports fans who will miss John Duddy. Back on July 15, 2006, Seamus McCaffrey and his buddies, Peter and Charlie dropped by the famous Jack Dempsey Bar while in New York. That day Duddy was making a personal appearance and Seamus and his buddies tipped one or two with the Irish boxer. This is the same Seamus McCaffrey who’s part owner of Rosie McCaffrey’s Irish Pub on Camelback Road in Phoenix, Arizona. Stop by their place and ask them. Aside from socializing with Seamus and his buddies, Duddy counts Sir Sean Connery and Liam Neeson as his mates.

Duddy, who began his career by winning 15 of his first 17 bouts by TKO or knockout, won two belts, the IBA Middleweight Title, and the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title in 2006-07. He’ll likely be remembered for his unanimous decision victory over Luis “Yori Boy” Campas at Madison Square Garden, his split decision victory over Michael Medina on the undercard of the Pacquiao vs. Clottey mega-fight at the Cowboy’s stadium and his hard fought battle against Howard Eastman at Kings Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

His two losses will also be remembered. Especially his poor showing against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on June 6, 2010. On a fight card billed ‘Latin Fury 15’ at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Chavez Jr. used a quick left jab which had Duddy backing up for most of the fight. It’s safe to say Chavez won every round after the first two and gained the judges’ nod 120-108, 117-111 and 116-112.

Losing the split decision to Billy Lyell was also a major surprise, since Lyell had come into the fight with a record of 5-5 in his last ten bouts.

Could Duddy be leaving boxing for TV or the movies?

A must-watch episode of “Lights Out,” the boxing drama on the FX channel, has Duddy in the credits. It’s in the 13th and final episode. That’s when the Derry-born boxer, long touted for his movie star looks, will be making his U.S. screen debut. Duddy, who’s had bit parts in a few Irish-made movies, has a cameo role with Paulie Malignaggi and other New York area prizefighters. Hopefully, we’ll see more than just the back of his head.

Duddy is just one of several boxing personalities with Irish connections tied to Holt McCallany, the show’s lead actor. In fact, Duddy’s trainer helped coach McCallany at different stages and of course Duddy has been the main inspiration for the actor’s ring persona and fighting style.

Said McCallany, whose character’s fight trunks are modeled after the emerald green pair worn by Duddy: “Of all the boxers I’ve studied, I’d say John is the one I was most anxious to emulate. I believe if he wanted to, he could make a great actor. He’s smart, personable, very handsome [and] men love him and women love him.”

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