Ranked as high as number four in the world by one sanctioning body, Duddy weathered a determined rally by the vastly experienced Eastman in the middle rounds to pass the biggest test of his four-year career before 7,000 vociferous fans at the hallowed King’s Hall.
Referee Sean Russell, the sole arbiter of the non-title bout, scored it 96-94 for the Derry Destroyer who upped his ledger to 23-0 (17 KOs), while ruining Eastman’s 37th birthday. The two-time world title challenger and former European and British titlist lost just for the sixth time in 48 contests.
More significantly, the win kept Duddy on track for a world title shot later in the New Year that may, for him, begin with a probable February 2 outing against American Matt Vanda.
Duddy thanked Eastman for the severe test.
“I really enjoyed the fight and the fans got their money’s worth and as you saw Howard and I were pretty much giving it hell for leather in the center of the ring,” he told reporters.
“Certainly it was a tremendous experience – I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that I have topped the bill at the King’s Hall and a sell-out,” Duddy added.
The partisan crowd gave him a deafening welcome and roared him on in the opening two rounds when he had Eastman on the ropes with raking left hooks to the head and body.
Stopped only once in his career, the 13-year pro, however, proved to be no easy mark. Eastman survived the blistering attack and began to make a fight of it in the fourth by timing the incoming Duddy with right hands.
The Guyanese-born boxer-puncher, with 35 KOs in 42 wins, had a massive fifth round during which he landed some big right uppercuts. To his credit, Duddy, although cut slightly around the right eye in the third, shrugged off the shots and fired back.
The home favorite gave away the sixth stanza as well as he was caught cleanly by bursts of quick, short punches from the older man. But Eastman had shot his load and the fresher Duddy began to double jab and dominate the exchanges again from the seventh.
Although he remained game to the end, Eastman tired while Duddy, nine years younger, kept up the punishing pressure until the final bell.
There were no knockdowns although the referee ruled Eastman’s trip to the canvas in the seventh a slip.
Duddy later dissected the fight: “When I was rushing him in the first half of the fight he couldn’t handle me,” said the New York-based prospect. “But when I started taking my time and letting him land at the end of his shots he was a bit more successful.”
Ranked fourth by the WBC and seventh by the WBA, Duddy was proud of his performance against the seasoned Eastman.
“I took his big dangerous right hand and it never fazed me – I took his best and I landed with my best. The fact (that) I’m fighting a guy ranked in the top 10 by all the governing bodies shows I’m worthy of being in the top 10 and we are looking for a world title.”
Eastman, who was hoping a win over the highly rated Duddy would earn him another title shot, claimed he’d been robbed even while lauding the Derry Destroyer.
“Mr. Duddy fought a good fight; he fought an intelligent fight. My experience gave me the fight but he got the decision in his home yard. I just feel gutted,” he told a Belfast newspaper.
“Mr. Duddy did what he was supposed to do and I respect him as a fighter, the decision was nothing to do with him. I wish him all the best.”
James Moore, the recently crowned New York State 154-pound champ and Duddy’s Queens neighbor, hailed his pal after watching the fight at The Glen Patrick in Maspeth.
“It was a great victory against a very experienced opponent,” Moore said.