Middleweight John Duddy (26-0) defeated Matt Vanda (39-9) at Madison Square Garden last Saturday when he won by unanimous decision, and will fight again on April 24 at the Prudential Center in Newark in a scheduled 10-round fight.
Duddy will go on vacation next week and return to camp in three weeks time to build on the momentum gained from the win over the tough Minnesotan.
For nine of the 10 rounds, Duddy used his jab to control proceedings. No matter what Vanda tried, he could not lure Duddy into a brawl and was well behind on the scorecards. Duddy exhibited good head movement and was disciplined as his triple and quadruple jab combinations kept his opponent at bay.
Stinging left hooks to the body also slowed down The Predator, who would have surely preferred to keep on the mask he wore in his ring entrance, such was the peppering his face got from the Derryman's relentless left hand.
Duddy came out in the 10th round and was coasting to an impressive win when either the long layoff caught up with him, or he decided to jump down into the trenches and brawl. Nine rounds of discipline went out the window and Vanda caught Duddy flush with multiple headshots, and for a minute or two the worst moments of the Smichet fight were being relived.
However, Duddy weathered the storm and both fighters clowned around in the final seconds of the fight before embracing at the final bell.
Judges Julie Lederman and Robin Taylor scored the fight 99-91, while John Signorelli had it 97-93.
The compubox numbers made for telling reading. In total punches thrown, Duddy had 703 to Vanda's 474, and the Irishman threw an average of 45 jabs a round. In an interesting aside, in the power punches connected column, Vanda outscored Duddy by 103 to 96, a large number of that 103 coming in the last round.
A euphoric and uncut Duddy looked like a considerable weight had been lifted from his shoulders after his hand was raised as victor. "It was a great fight. We had a good training camp, but it was only three weeks long as I didn't start until after Christmas," said Duddy in the ring after the fight.
About the pasting he took in the final round, Duddy said, "Well, he didn't do anything until then so he had to so something. He kicked the wee out of me a little bit, but I am still standing."
Of the same three minutes, Vanda said, "Yeah if I started earlier I could have put him away. He was moving a lot. It was a good fight and he is undefeated you know, so he is a pretty good fighter."
When the Irish Voice caught up with Duddy's adviser Craig Hamilton on Tuesday, he confirmed the April fight in Newark. "There is a possibility that the date could be pushed back one week, and the reason is that the Prudential Center is the home of the New Jersey Devils hockey team, and they will be in the playoffs at that time. It has to be determined when they are playing, but tentatively it (the fight date) is the 24th," said Hamilton.
Duddy will be the headline fight in a Main Events Promotion. Russell Peltz will carry out matchmaking duties and has a mandate to find an opponent who will challenge Duddy, but also allow him to work on further technical improvement.
Hamilton was happy with how The Derry Destroyer got through the weekend. "I am very pleased. Pat Burns has worked very hard on John technically with his footwork and his jab and to box more," he said. "We don't want John to do it the hard way, slugging it out, and I was very pleased. I thought John's best round was the round he probably lost, the 10th round, when he did have some adversity. He did not revert to slugging it out and he did what he had to do; he boxed well and he probably won the last minute even though he did not win the round.
"Overall I was pleased with John and he made a very significant step forward on what we are trying to do."
Hamilton also confirmed that, at least for now, Duddy would be staying in the middleweight division. "Right now we are fighting John at 160. That doesn't mean that there can't be a change of plans, but we don't have any immediate plans to leave 160," continued Hamilton.
"When he fights for the (world) title it is our goal to get him into that fight when he has the best possible chance to win it, and to get the most money in the fight."
With Kelly Pavlik also winning on Saturday night in Ohio and mentioning Duddy as a possible future opponent in his post-fight interview, it appears that both Pavlik and promoter Bob Arum have Duddy in their sights for later in the year.
For nine rounds Duddy built on his debut performance with Pat Burns and the two seem to have built up a good rapport together. The Derry Destroyer was fortunate that he was not in the ring with a real power puncher in round 10. The proposed fight in New Jersey on April 24 will give the pair more time to prepare for the huge challenges that lie ahead.