The Battle of King’s Hall: Duddy vs. Eastman

20.11.07 - By Dan Fitz-Simons: On December 8th John Duddy, “the Derry Destroyer” (22-0) 17 KOs, will take on middleweight veteran Howard Eastman, “the Battersea Bomber” (42-5) 35 KOs, at the King’s Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The fight against Eastman, a seasoned gatekeeper of the middleweight division for over a decade, will be a decisive turning point in Duddy’s career. A win against a skilled journeyman like Eastman would legitimize Duddy’s resume and enhance his ring savvy..

john duddy Eastman, who was born in Guyana but fights out of London, has fought the likes of Winky Wright, Edison Miranda, Sam Soliman, and Arthur Abraham. A two-time world title contender, Eastman has a wealth of experience as a former European, British, and Commonwealth champion. Of his five defeats, two were for world titles. In 2001, he floored William Joppy in the last round but lost on points. Eastman also went the 12 round distance against Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight championship in 2005.

The Battersea Bomber will be a genuine test for Duddy, who took out the 19-year old Prince Arron last month in less than two rounds without breaking a sweat. No wonder Duddy is excited about fighting an opponent with Eastman’s reputation. Moreover, Duddy’s life-long dream has been to fight in King’s Hall. Yet, he’s also aware of the threat Eastman poses. In a recent press conference Duddy noted that Eastman had almost twice as many KOs as he had fights, and that Eastman “is a very dangerous man.”

On the other hand, Duddy has a number of advantages going into his fight with Eastman. The first is a rigorous training schedule enforced by Don Turner, one of the best trainers in the business. A diet of fruits and vegetables is part of his strict routine, and Turner is reportedly working on John’s speed, balance, and defense. Critics have branded Duddy a predictable, one-dementional fighter. It is likely then that Turner has been training John to throw more punches at a faster rate from different angles.

Another advantage is that Duddy stays busy, averaging one fight every three or four months. Boxers who fight frequently stay sharp, and Duddy has consistently connected with a high percentage of punches in his last few outings. Age is also a factor in a sport where the legs go first. Duddy is only 28, but Howard turns 37 the day of the fight. Other Duddy assets include: fast hands, accurate combinations, and a solid chin. Duddy has one of the best left jabs in the division, and he could drop Eastman with either hand.

Duddy admits he’s still a work in progress, and his manager, Eddie McLaughlin, compares him to a fancy sports car waiting to break out on an open speedway. Fight aficionados agree that the timing of the Eastman fight is just right. Many fans believe that Irish Ropes has coddled Duddy too long, and it’s time for him to step up to face a legitimate opponent. Some even feel that the postponement of the Pavlik match was a blessing because Duddy simply isn’t ready to take on the new world champion.

If history is any judge, Duddy will come out swinging at the bell and attempt to test Eastman’s jaw in the first round. However, Don Turner may not sanction that tactic, especially against Eastman. After all, Duddy has never faced an opponent who can hit like Howard, and after 13 years as a pro, the Battersea Bomber can still bang. Some argue that Eastman is past his prime. Yet that same argument was made about Yori-Boy Campas, and few can forget the problems Duddy had with him.

One thing for sure, this bout could develop into a war. Those seeking a Mayweather-type contest should look elsewhere. Duddy and Eastman can hold their own as boxers, but each has the warrior instinct, and if given an opportunity will unload powerful hooks, crosses, and upper cuts. When that happens the cut factor could be a detriment to Duddy. However, if Turner has his way, the threat will be reduced by an improved Duddy defense with hands held high and constant head and lateral body movement.

Duddy also has the advantage of a home crowd. Belfast is only a short bus ride from his home town Derry. Moreover, the Irish know a good fight when they see one, so there will also be hundreds of Duddy fans coming up from the Irish Republic. Promoters at King’s Hall anticipate a crowd of 5,000. Duddy’s brawling style combined with Eastman’s reputation guarantees a good gate. It remains to be seen if the bout will be broadcast to the U.S. on pay-per-view.

There is already talk of placing Duddy on the Klitchko-Ibragimov under-card at Madison Square Garden in February. Should that fall through, Duddy could fight in the small Garden on St. Patrick’s Day Eve in March. A more distant possibility is a Pavlik-Duddy match sometime after June; negotiations between the McLoughlin brothers and Bob Arum are still ongoing. Others think Duddy should target the WBA or IBF European belt instead, by fighting Felix Sturm or Arthur Abraham in Germany.

However, these all speculations are based on a Duddy victory. A loss to Eastman could terminate these grandiose schemes and signal the end of Duddy as a serious contender. So far the Derry Destroyer has wisely focused on the challenge at hand, “Pavlik can wait, as just now I’m concentrating on Eastman.” Whatever the outcome, the Duddy-Eastman fight could prove to be one of the most exciting and decisive events in the middleweight division this year.

Article posted on 20.11.2007

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