John Duddy (25-0, 17 KOs) was at the Club Bar and Grill Restaurant at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to promote his fight against Matt Vanda (39-8, 22 KOs) on Saturday, February 21 in the main Garden arena on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto/Michael Jennings fight for the vacant WBO welterweight title. Duddy, who looked in good shape, was joined by his opponent Matt Vanda for the press junket. The return to the ring will be Duddy's first since his public split with Irish Ropes Promotions over money issues. "I am delighted to be in Madison Square Garden again. I've always got a good reception from all my Irish fans and hopefully I will put on another good and exciting fight,' said Co. Derry native Duddy of the 160-pound matchup scheduled for 10 rounds. "I am looking forward to getting my career back off to a good start. I think that there is a very exciting fight in prospect between me and Matt. As you know, the two of us are full of courage, full of guts and it will be an exciting fight to get the show on the road." Duddy, who said the fight felt like a "homecoming," added that it was great to be back in town, and that trainer Pat Burns was asking hard questions of him in training ahead of his first fight since last June's victory over Charles Howe in Boston. Vanda was also in positive mood ahead of the fight. "Preparations are going good, I didn't have as much time as I usually have but for this fight I feel pretty confident," the 30-year-old told the Irish Voice. "I've had five or six days sparring and I have another two weeks of sparring to go so I should be pretty ready to go. It's going to be a great fight and I have a lot of respect for John Duddy; he is undefeated and has beat a lot of good fighters and it would be great to get a victory against him, so I am coming to do my job and I never come to lose." So how does "The Predator" from St. Paul, a couple of inches shorter than Duddy, envisage the fight going? "John Duddy comes right at you and I pretty much come straight forward too, so I think we will probably just go toe-to-toe. It might not be the smartest thing to do," Vanda said. "John is a pretty big puncher, but he gets cut open and he is not the hardest guy to hit, but I have all the respect for him. A fight is a fight, we'll both be in each other's faces and I am sure the crowd will like it, and the best man will win." Promoter Bob Arum was delighted that Duddy is featuring on the card. "I had John on a card years ago when Cotto fought Paulie Mailgnaggi. He is a wonderful boy, he has a great future but there has got to be a plan," said the Top Rank supremo. "If he wins this fight, where does he go from here? That is what working with (Duddy advisor Craig Hamilton) is going to be able to accomplish. "There are three big ways to go. He could fight Kelly (Pavlik) for the middleweight title, he could fight Yuri Foreman (NABF light middleweight champion) in a great battle for New York, or the third possibility is to put him in with Julio Cesar Chavez Junior in Las Vegas this summer, which would be monstrous. There are a lot of ways for John to go, but he can't piddle around like he has been doing under the prior management." Also in attendance on Tuesday was super featherweight Maureen Shea (13-0), who fights Kina Malpartida (8-3) on the same card for the vacant WBA super featherweight title. "I have been working for this for seven years. I started when I was 21, now I am 28. I have trained so hard for this. Everyone who has worked with me and supported me, I just hope they can share in this with me and enjoy what I have worked so hard for," Shea said. That work has continued over the past few weeks and Shea is happy with her progress. "Preparations have been going great. I am just back from California. I was out there with my strength and conditioning trainer Robert Ferguson and prior to that I was working with my strength trainer here, Vince Sullivan." Shea admits she doesn't know much about her opponent, but her trainer Hector Roca will have her ready. "It really doesn't make a difference to me who they are, because I focus on my game and my fight, and this is how we have prepared my whole career, both amateur and professional," she said. Though Shea will give away a few inches to Malpartida, she has fought three girls in the past who were that tall, so she does not see that being a problem. Tickets for Duddy's fight can be obtained at the usual bars in Queens or by calling Barney Moore at 917-559-8467, Greg McIntyre at 917-528-7397 and John Wynne at 917-593-4671. In other news, Irish Ropes Promotions St. Patrick's Eve show at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden is a work in progress, Eddie McLough-lin told the Irish Voice Monday. McLaughlin added that he was still working on the main event between prospective middleweight opponents Andy Lee (16-1) and Walid Smichet (19-5-3), and that once the top of the bill was confirmed the rest of the card would come together quickly. "We are trying to button up Andy, we didn't button it up yet, but he is anxious to fight and he said he would love to be the main event," said McLoughlin. "We have to get the main event buttoned up first before we start going on to other guys but believe me we are getting phone calls here from the four corners of the world for guys to get on there." Among the likely participants on the undercard are Irish-American welterweight Danny O'Connor (who went to 3-0 as a pro last Friday night in Montreal when he won a unanimous decision over debutant Greg Jimenez), Dublin featherweight Patrick Hyland (15-0), West Coast-based, Freddie Roach-trained light welterweight Dean Byrne (10-0), Omagh welterweight (2-1) Damian Taggart (who is trained by Tyrone triple All-Ireland winning Gaelic football coach Mickey Harte), Limerick light-heavyweight Jamie Power (4-0) and Philadelphia-based Galweigan middleweight Simon O'Donnell (8-1). A press conference to announce details for "Erin Go Brawl 2" is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, February 11 at Jack Demseys in Manhattan. Finally, 2009 could see a battle of the Moores in the light middleweight division. The Moores are Jamie (current Irish light middleweight champion who is fighting Michele Piccirillo for the vacant European Light middleweight title on March 6) and James (16-2), the Maspeth, Queens-based Wicklow native just coming off his loss in December to Yuri Foreman for the NABF title. James is back in the gym following that setback and getting back into shape for a possible fight at the end of March/start of April. Barney Moore, advisor to James, told the Irish Voice that "as long as Jamie Moore wins his next fight," then it could take place. Dublin promoter Tommy Egan, working for James in trying to get the fight to happen, is currently looking at what the Arklow man would have to do to be eligible to challenge Jamie for the European title - should the latter emerge victorious on March 6. Word of James Moore's more immediate assignment should be confirmed in the next week or so.
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