Derry boxer John Duddy

Derry middleweight John Duddy (27-1, 17 KOs) is set to fight Juan Astorga (14-3-1, 9 KOs) in a 10 round contest on January 23 at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of the WBA featherweight title fight between Yourkis Gamboa and Rogers Mtagwa and the WBO featherweight title fight between Juan Manuel Lopez and Steven Luevano.

Astorga is a 31-year-old orthodox style boxer. The Mexican-born, Texas-based fighter was last in action on November 13 when he KO’d Matt Gockel in round six in Kansas City. Astorga has just won two fights on the bounce after two consecutive losses in 2008, a defeat to Ronald Hearns in February that was followed by a loss to James Cook in April.

Astorga's only other loss in his four-year plus career was to former Contender TV show participant Joey Gilbert in May 2007.

"We have accepted him as the opponent on January 23. I don’t know if he has accepted," Duddy’s managerial advisor Craig Hamilton told the Irish Voice on Monday.

“He is a competent opponent. At this level, you don’t get anyone who is easy. He will present his own set of challenges to us, and we will take him as seriously as any opponent. Our focus is to win the fight and continue to move forward, and that is how we look at it.”

With nine knockouts on his ledger it would seem that Astorga packs somewhat of a punch, but every time he has stepped up in class the durable fighter has come up short.

Hamilton went on to say that though they are looking at several options, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. among them, all plans are tentative until this fight is won.

Duddy has been staying in shape since his win against Michi Munoz on October 10, and he is using the time to work with trainer Harry Keitt ahead of the most important year in his career.

In other news, Matthew Macklin (25-2, 18 KOs) will hope to end what has been an outstanding 12 months for him with a win against Uruguay’s Rafael Sosa Pintos (34-4, 14 KOs) this Saturday night at the National Stadium in Dublin.

After defeating Wayne Elcock for the British middleweight title in March, Macklin -- whose parents come from Tipperary and Roscommon and who has played underage hurling for Tipperary -- won the European middleweight title in spectacular fashion by stopping Amin Asikainen in the first round in Manchester on September 25.

Of the top three Irish middleweights – Andy Lee, Duddy and Macklin (in no particular order) -- the latter has made the most progress in the last year and could be the first to challenge for a world title in 2010.

Finally, it’s make or break time for Maureen Shea (13-3) this Thursday night as she drops down a weight division to take on Jenna Shriver (9-4-1) for the interim WBA super bantamweight title.

Shea has campaigned at featherweight/super featherweight for most of her career, and after two straight losses the “Real Million Dollar Baby” will have to make the most of this opportunity at the Manhattan Center to bolster her career.

For tickets to see Shea fight for the interim WBA world title on December 3 at the Manhattan Center, call 718-792-7777.