Belfast Telegraph

Moment John Duddy heard final bell

By David Kelly

John Duddy walked out of Gleason’s Gym in New York for the last time yesterday to announce his retirement, but it was in Texas last summer when all the fight was knocked out of him.

Before 20,000 screaming Mexicans in San Antonio’s Alamodome, in the middle rounds of his clash with Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, the realisation dawned on Duddy that he had found his level.

His American dream of a world title was not to be after eight years in which he carved out a successful career based in the Big Apple. His charisma and aggressive style in the ring made him a hit with Irish Americans and he arguably could not have enjoyed so much adulation nor earned as much money if he had remained at home in Derry.

A fighting man knows in his blood when the time has come to end a career, it’s just that other voices calling for a few dollars more or ego suggesting you’ll get it right another night drown out reality.

When Duddy went back to his corner that night against Chavez in their world title eliminator, having been unable to find the extra gear he believed he had in the latter stages of any fight, he knew the game was up.

But then came the chance of not just a few dollars more but a purse in excess of $100,000 to face long time Irish middleweight rival Andy Lee and with it the understanding that victory would lead to a shot at world champion Sergio Martinez.

The voices were now speaking louder than ever and Duddy returned to the gym believing he could summon the desire to face Lee and prove his world title credentials.

It was to be his second highest pay-day after the Chavez purse and the hype had already started as it would be screened live on American cable TV giant HBO, but thankfully the Derryman grabbed hold of reality and walked away from a golden chance that could have had damaging consequences, such is the unforgiving nature of boxing.

A fighter simply cannot afford to go into the ring less than fully focused and with the genuine belief that he can succeed, otherwise he is reduced to a sitting target. Duddy’s style of hit and be hit would have left him more open than most.

There has always been a suggestion that Duddy could consider going into acting post-career but for now he will reflect on eight years in the ring in which he gave his all and most importantly left it at the right time as so few do.

Warrior Duddy has made the right decision at the right time.

Belfast Telegraph

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