Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Pavlik will provide a real test for Duddy

Has a livewire John Duddy bitten off more than he can chew?

Not tonight, but three months from now in Atlantic City?

Irish boxing's top gun will be richer by over a million dollars after challenging Kelly Pavlik for the World middleweight crown, but I wish I could say he'll win it. That's how high this Everest looks for John-boy in a fight that will demand, and reward, only the best from him. Nothing short of that will be good enough.

Pavlik's cheerleaders have had to be doused in ice water. The hosannas for the tall American have been deafening since his rampant victory over a sometimes punch-shy Jermain Taylor.

The man from Little Rock had taken the title from a 40-year-old Bernard Hopkins in hotly disputed circumstances two summers ago, but then moved exasperatingly into reverse gear before losing to a resourceful and stylish Pavlik in defence No.5.

Duddy would also have beaten Taylor, I reckon, but the lamp-post high, razor-sharp Pavlik was always going to be a tougher hurdle.

The big guy used his right hand like a hatchet against Edison Miranda, flooring the flame-throwing Colombian twice before stopping him in the seventh round, and has won 29 times inside the distance in an unbeaten run of 32 professional contests.

"This Ghost is for real," trumpeted a RING bannerline after the Miranda job.

Taylor boxed somebody called Spinks the Jinx on the same Memphis show, but looked downright insipid. It was a bout that anaesthetised the crowd as the bible of boxing voted Pavlik 'Fighter of the Month'. How nice to be reminded, they said, that once there were middleweights like Hagler and Hearns.

A puncher is doomed when he is forced on to the back foot and lost for leverage, and against both Miranda and Taylor, Pavlik seemed to read the script perfectly. He's a cool cat under pressure, throws a mean right hook, and has a good chin - not a bad treble to have going for you!

Whether using his 6ft 2 in frame and long reach to punch from a distance, or stepping inside to slug away, he'll be a hot handful for Duddy, a giant step up in class, for sure.

Nobody is saying what Pavlik will be paid for this voluntary defence of his newly-won title ; only that Duddy can look forward to a handsome pay-day of $$1.2 million (over £600,000), which should make him the highest paid Irish fighter in history after former champion Steve Collins.

Steve, they say, earned over £1million from a contest with wildman Nigel Benn in Manchester that lasted only four rounds, Benn shipping terrible punishment before retiring with a sprained ankle.

Duddy, high-spirited, mercurial, impulsive, has taken New York by storm as boxing's biggest Irish ticket-seller since Gerry Cooney. That was back in the low 80's when Cooney, then unbeaten but untested at 25-nil, happily jumped in at the deep end for a match with heavyweight champion Larry Holmes from which he banked a staggering $$10 million.

A big purse allied to Cooney's first big mistake. He was stopped in 13 rounds, and never the same fighter again.

It was in Atlantic City, a two-hour drive from New York, that Wayne McCullough carved a niche as the first man to go 12 rounds with Naz Hamed in a world title match.

Wayne thought he won this 1998 Halloween fight, but all three judges knew better, one of them by a runaway margin of 10-2 in rounds. Could Hamed's form have been as " lousy" as Barry McGuigan said it was, I wonder?

Now it's showtime there again; show-what-you-can-do time for Duddy in a contest for which champion Pavlik must start odds-on favourite, says Adrian Eastwood.

With Mayweather already at 9-4 on to beat Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas, Telegraph colleague Bob Fenton might be happy with an offer of 'even-money' on a Mayweather/ Pavlik double.

Would you?

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