Photos by Sumio Yamada
JOHN DUDDY vs ANTHONY BONSANTE
Exciting and good-looking, Irelands John Duddy has built up a strong following in New York, and the Theater at Madison Square Garden will be packed to see him meet Contender Season One competitor Anthony Bonsante in a 12-round middleweight bout on the eve of St. Patricks Day, with pay-per-view TV coverage in America and Canada.
Duddys fan-support reminds me of 1960s and 70s in Britain when the middleweight Mark Rowe was a big ticket-seller. Rowes early career manager, Johnny Arrow, once told me that if Rowe won every fight he ever had on a first-round knockout his fans would go home happy every time. I get the feeling the same applies with Duddys fans. When Duddy blew out the overmatched Shelby Pudwill on St. Patricks Day eve last year you would have thought he had won a world title.
After 18 wins in a row (15 opponents halted), Duddy is, as he will admit, still learning. An Irish amateur international who gave future Olympic gold medallist Andre Ward a lively evening in Dublin, the 27-year-old Duddy showed his grit and solid chin when surviving cuts over both eyes and some heavy hits to win a unanimous but very hard-fought decision over veteran Yory Boy Campas last September.
It was a night when Duddy proved he can rally when his back is to the wall. There were times when it looked as if he was in real danger of losing, but Duddy admirably fought his way through several moments of crisis.
So, Duddys heart and toughness are not in question. It did seem that he was getting hit rather too often for comfort, though, by his 35-year-old opponent. Clearly, blocking punches are head movement are areas in which Duddy needs to improve if he is to continue moving forward in his career.
Bonsante seems a sensible choice of opponent. The 36-year-old from Minnesota is experienced, he is well-known from The Contender who could forget the Worlds Greatest Dad baseball cap? and he had a very good win in his last fight when he soundly outpointed home-state rival Matt Vanda, who holds a victory, debatable though it was, over Campas.
The fight with Vanda, whom he knocked down in the last round, showed that Bonsante still has enthusiasm for the game after 40 fights. He has doggedly been doing his roadwork in the snow in Minnesota while Duddy has prepared in sunny Vero Beach, FL, away from the sometimes distracting influence of well-meaning friends and fans in New York.
I like the fact that Duddy has gone away to train. It is another indication of how serious he is about becoming a world-class fighter.
The fight with Campas, tough though it was, will have been good for Duddys ring education. I think that this fight showed him in a vivid way what he needs to work on to be a more complete fighter, and if he wasnt sure before he now knows more about himself as a boxer, and what he is capable of doing when things are not going well for him. An inspired and motivated Campas fought his best fight in some time, but Duddy passed the test. My feeling is that the Campas contest might well have made Duddy a better fighter. On Friday we will find out.
Bonsante is coming in as a winning fighter and I have no doubt he believes he can win Friday's fight. He is sufficiently seasoned to make Duddy pay for mistakes, and I think the early rounds could be highly entertaining, with both men getting hit. By the middle rounds, though, I think that Duddys sheer will-to-win and superior firepower will have given him control of the fight: Irish eyes should be smiling by the ninth round.