A twelve-round war against a hard punching 96-fight veteran can do that to you.
Cut above the left eye in the second round, wobbled in the same stanza, and his right eyebrow sliced in three places in the fifth, Duddy overcame great adversity to win a bruising unanimous points decision at The Theater at Madison Square Garden last Friday night.
He triumphed by scores of 117-111 on judge Tommy Kaczmarek’s card, 116-112 according to Tom Schreck and 115-113 in the eyes of Billy Costello. The exciting fight will be broadcast at 8 p.m., October 10, on the MSG cable network.
Duddy, now 18-0 (15 KOs), picked up the middling IBA middleweight belt and saw his stock rocket with a rousing display of heart, grit and a ferrous chin. He boxed, too, down the stretch — staggering Campas in the eighth round, battering him in the ninth, and decking the tough Mexican in the tenth only for referee Hubert Earle to rule it a slip.
On press row, reporters called it the Fight of the Year.
Indeed, the two fighters, representing two great fighting traditions in the “Shamrocks & Sombreros” main event, produced an instant classic — a throwback to the wars of yore that immortalized the Garden as the mecca of prizefighting.
“It was fantastic and much more,” Duddy, blood welling above both eyes, said immediately after the fight. “It was really like in those old fight films with the turns and twists.”
Duddy and trainer Harry Keitt had prepared for a long tough fight against the 35-year-old ex-IBF world junior middleweight titlist, who’d only lost eight of his previous 96 bouts, and that’s exactly what they got.
From the first bell, Duddy, the quicker man, set a torrid pace as planned — landing left and right hooks for the better part of the opening stanza. Campas, however, came back late in the round and scored with some flush shots.
In full song, the predominantly pro-Duddy crowd of 3,852 went hush in the second round when first Duddy was cut above the left eye by a straight right and then moments later a booming right to the chin turned the Irishman’s knees to jelly.
Duddy went down in a squat then straightened up in an instant.
Long night, was Campas’ unmistakable message.
“Yory Boy was everything I thought he was,” Duddy would say later. “I thought I hurt him in the first round and he came back and hurt me in the second.”
Yet, such was the 27-year-old’s heart and conditioning that he rebounded in the third session, throwing everything at the unrelenting Mexican.
More drama in the fifth round: Campas’ patent left hook, and maybe even a headbutt, produced three cuts above Duddy’s right eye and for a moment, it looked worse than the flow on the left that cutman “Big” George Mitchell had under control.
Duddy was later trapped on the ropes and hammered with a four-punch combination. But underneath the Derry native’s chin, Campas, whose fists had pulverized 72 of his 88 victims, found Irish steel. Duddy then appeared to steal the round with a hard left and right combination that stunned his man. With Keitt in his corner beseeching him to box, Duddy did just that in the sixth.
He trailed four rounds to two on Costello’s card at the halfway point and was even on Schreck’s, but swept all but the last stanza on all three judges cards when he turned boxer.
Duddy was particularly devastating in the eighth when he wobbled Campas with a right late in the round. He jumped in with three punches but the reeling Campas was saved by the bell.
The crowd found its collective voice again.
The ninth would probably be his best ever as a pro. Duddy could not miss as he repeatedly landed one-twos on his opponent’s puffy face.
Campas, who’d quit on his stool against Jose Luis Lopez, Fernando Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya, refused to lie down. And when he finally kissed the canvas after a punch in the 10th, referee Earle waved it off.
“I thought John knocked him down. He got hit and went down,” Keitt insisted.
Nonetheless, his gallant effort in the second half of the bout might have been too much for Duddy who was suddenly at sea in the last stanza. Campas went for broke, and although his punches now lacked snap, he relentlessly tagged Duddy with shots to the head that appeared to have the fan favorite going.
Asked later if he’d been out on his feet in the last round, Duddy replied:
“I wasn’t out on my feet, but I was definitely tired. I’m glad (we) didn’t have to go more rounds.”
The final result was indisputable.
Duddy had been in a fight and prevailed. He’d passed a stern test against a world caliber foe with flying colors and although sidelined for the rest of the year while his cuts heal, Irish Ropes’ plans of a real world title tilt on St. Patrick’s Day 2008 for their charge remain solidly on track.
Trainer Keitt said it was a defining fight for Duddy. “I thought it was a heck of a fight. He’s got bigger (guts) than New York City.”
Keitt was pleased that the hard work they’d put in during camp, sparring nine four-minute rounds with only 30-second breaks, and running up to six hilly miles daily, had paid off.
On what Duddy didn’t do right in the fight: “I’d have loved to see him box a guy like that more. He’s not going to knock him out (so) he has to use his skills. He’s got them.”
Duddy’s cuts have cost him a six-figure payday in Madison Square Garden’s main arena November 11, manager Tony McLoughlin confirmed.
Duddy would have appeared on the same show as fellow Irish middleweight prospect Andy Lee, on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko’s world heavyweight title defense against Calvin Brock.