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16 August 2007 Edition

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Interview : Irish middleweight boxer John Duddy

Martin McGuinness with 'Smoking’ Joe Frazer and John Duddy following his successful title defence at Madison Square Gardens, New York,  Friday 16 March 2007

Martin McGuinness with 'Smoking’ Joe Frazer and John Duddy following his successful title defence at Madison Square Gardens, New York, Friday 16 March 2007

The Derry Destroyer

US-based Irish middleweight boxer JOHN DUDDY is the current holder of the IBA World Middleweight Title and the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title. Duddy is from Derry and is a nephew of John “Jackie” Duddy  who was murdered in  Derry by the British Army during the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972.
While in Ireland in July, where he fought Allessio Furlan in the National Stadium, Duddy, who fights under the moniker of The Derry Destroyer, spoke to An Phoblacht’s ARAN FOLEY about his boxing career, his triumphant return to Ireland, his involvement with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in the US and the changes that have come about in his native Derry in recent years.    

How confident were you going into the fight in the national stadium against Allessio Furlan ?
Very confident, as usual. If I wasn’t confident, I wouldn’t be a fighter.

In many ways this is a triumphant return to Ireland for you. You have had a stunning career. As an amateur you won 100 out of 130 bouts, winning you’re first title at just 15 in the middle weight junior division going on to take the same title at intermediate and senior levels. You also represented Ireland at both European and Olympic qualifiers yet despite this no promoter would take you seriously enough here in Ireland or England. How does it feel to return here with both you’re titles and a record of winning all 20 of you’re professional bouts, 15 by knockout.

It felt great. But I never talked to any promoters in Ireland or England. I always wanted to turn professional in America.

You contested your first professional fight in the Bronx in New York against Tarek Rasheed which you won by first round knock out and you haven’t looked back since. What made you decide to go to America and how difficult was it starting out?
I always wanted to go to America. When Eddie McLoughlin of Irish Ropes called and gave me the opportunity, at that stage of my life, especially for boxing, I was interested in starting my professional career there. Once the invitation was extended, I accepted and I was like a kid starting all over again. I needed to find something new. I felt that when I landed in Gleason’s Gym in New York City. I was in a breeding ground for boxers where I could grow. There’s so much to learn from so many different fighters with different styles. 

On 11 June, 2005 you boxed Patrick Thompson in the world famous Madison Square Gardens. The fight went the distance but you won on a unanimous judges’ decision. What was that like? You must have really felt you’re career was taking off?

I had heard about Madison Square Gardens, but to fight there – I remember as they raised my hand thinking this was the place to do it. I knew then that I had made the right decision about being a boxer.

You must get a lot of support from friends and family in Derry. Can you tell me what it was like when you came back?
I was mobbed. People were knocking on my Daddy’s door looking for me. It was brilliant. I didn’t go out much at night. Even going to a restaurant. It was amazing taking pictures and signing autographs with the staff and customers. It was my first realisation that I was much more than a fighter to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not as big as some of them may think I am.

You’re uncle John “Jackie” Duddy – whom you are named after – was murdered in Derry during the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972. Even though you were born 7 years later you must have been very aware of this whilst growing up?
It wasn’t a primary concern, Bloody Sunday, the way my mother and father raised us. It’s my path, my family history, but I wasn’t really involved in it. I am proud of my family.

Born in 1979 you would have just been coming into your teens in the early 1990s. What kind of changes have you noticed in the city you grew up in?
People have changed so much there – university, workers, children.....all over. Tourism is huge. It’s amazing to see so many different nationalities visiting our city that, not too long ago, was thought of as bad.
The people of Derry are friendly and happy. Derry as a whole is unbelievable. I met politicians, Protestant and Catholic, who were friendly to me, like what Barry McGuigan achieved. There’s no talk of war, only about health, education, arts, business.....you name it. A hundred movies were shot last year in Belfast. That’s fantastic. I’ve only been away from home three-and-a-half years, a relatively short period of time, but so much has changed for the positive. Even the building structures in Derry have changed.”     

You are quite active in the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. You entered the ring in a 2006 fight wearing the  immigration Reform t-shirt to tremendous applause. What kinds of problems do the Irish community face there, particularly in the wake of 9/11.
It’s like it is for any person who moves there from another country. Everybody comes to America on a wing and a prayer. So many dreams do come true through, whether it’s business or family. If some never did the proper paperwork, it’s like a guillotine hanging over their heads. They can’t go back to Ireland for a visit and come back to America – all classes of people.
We sold out Madison Square Garden and the majority of the people there were Irish. A lot of them were illegals. They were there supporting me and I supported them (by wearing the T-shirt). Anyone in the same position would do the same thing. We wouldn’t have sold out Madison Square Garden if not for all of those people. The law’s the law, but hopefully hard working people who live here will some day be allowed to go home to visit and to return here to live.” 

You met the Arizona Senator John McCain – himself a former Navy boxer – while campaigning on this issue. How did he strike you?
He’s a good politician. I didn’t know much about him when we met. I knew he had been in the Navy and was a boxer who had a lot of things in common with regular people.

There is speculation about an impending fight between yourself and Dubliner Jim Rock what can you tell us about that?
Nothing, really. My promoter, Irish Ropes and manager McLoughlin Brothers handle that. I just fight who they put in front of me. I have a lot of respect for Jim Rock. He waved the flag for boxing in Ireland. He made a lot of money selling cars but boxed for the love of it.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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