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01 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

Chavez-Duddy: A Fighting Heart Isn’t Enough


Chavez rocks Duddy: Rafael Soto/Top Rank
Chavez rocks Duddy: Rafael Soto/Top Rank

By Thomas Hauser

John Duddy sat in the “green room” at The Alamodome in San Antonio on the evening of June 26th. Before the night was done, eight thousand fans would watch him do battle. Hundreds of thousands more would see him on television. Few people have an audience of that magnitude at any time in their life.

The room was comfortably large, but it wasn’t really a dressing room. There were no lockers or shower.

Decades of sacrifice, pain, passion and dreams were about to crystalize into a fist fight. John would step onto a small square of illuminated canvas, where he and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr would try to beat each other senseless.

There’s an ebb and flow to a fighter’s career. An unexpected loss can send his fortunes plummeting like a one-day twenty-percent drop in the Dow Jones average. On occasion, a fighter enters the ring, knowing in advance that he’s about to engage in a crossroads fight. Win, and he takes a giant step forward. Lose, and he might never climb back to where he was before.

This was a crossroads fight. It wasn’t for a world title (which crossroads fights often are). But after this fight, regardless of the outcome, Duddy’s future as a fighter would be vastly different from what it had been before.

“A win would mean great things,” John had said three days earlier. “The winner has a good path in front of him.”

Duddy’s pre-fight dressing room is always quiet. There’s no music and little conversation.

John sat silent for long periods of time, sipping occasionally from a bottle of vitamin water. At one point, he lay down on a black leather sofa, put his head on a pillow fashioned from towels, and closed his eyes, focusing on the task ahead.

Trainer Harry Keitt, cornerman Jihad Abdul-Aziz, cutman George Mitchell, and manager Craig Hamilton spoke in hushed tones when they spoke at all.

“I hate this part of it,” Hamilton said. “Everything up until now, I could try to control. Now it’s out of my hands.”

Referee Jon Schorle came in and gave John his pre-fight instructions. One concern in the Duddy camp was that John cuts easily.

“I wish I didn’t cut, but I do,” Duddy has said. “If it bothered me, I wouldn’t be a fighter.”

Against Yory Boy Campas and Walid Smichet, John had fought with horrific cuts above both eyes but emerged victorious each time. Team Duddy was afraid that Schorle might pull the trigger prematurely. It was an issue they’d planned to raise during the referee’s pre-fight instructions.

Schorle brought the subject up himself. “I’ve seen you fight many times,” he told John. “You cut easily. I’m not going to panic if I see blood. You’ve fought with bad cuts before and won.”

The minutes passed.

John gloved up and hit the pads with Keitt. The trainer offered some last-minute thoughts shortly before they left for the ring.

“Don’t chase him. Walk him down and break him down, bit by bit. I want smart pressure. If you get him hurt, jump on him.”

This wasn’t American Idol. It wasn’t about being voted off an island. John was about to fight for his career and to position himself to keep living his dream. Regardless of whether he won or lost, he would be punched again and again by a man trained in the art of hurting. It was inevitable that he would suffer physical damage. Some of it would be superficial; some, possibly, everlasting.

Such is the life of a professional fighter.

Duddy is an atypical prizefighter. Boxing runs counter to the grain of who and what he appears to be. There’s no wellspring of anger; no history of parental abuse. He never slept on the streets or went hungry as a child.

John turned pro in 2003 at age twenty-four after moving to New York from Ireland. His good looks, charisma, and action style of fighting made him a popular figure in the Irish-American community. Women’s hearts fluttered when he walked by. Men wanted to shake his hand. And he was winning: 23-and-0 with 18 knockouts.

How good was John?

Better than the guys he was fighting.

Then, on February 23, 2008, Duddy fought Walid Smichet (a free-swinging club fighter) at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko vs. Sultan Ibragimov. An impressive win would have put him next in line for a title shot against middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.

It was a bad night for the Irish.

When an opponent throws punches in bunches, John tends to get hit. “Watching Duddy against Smichet was the first time I saw a guy get hit with every punch in a six-punch combination,” writer George Kimball noted afterward.

John won, barely. Both of his eyelids were ripped open. Thirty-two stitches were needed to close the wounds. “Boxing is hard enough when you’re fighting smart,” he acknowledged later. “There’s no point in making things even harder by fighting stupid. Just because I can take a punch doesn’t mean I have to. There’s a time to stand and slug, but it’s not as often as I’ve been doing it.”

Meanwhile, a storm was brewing. Duddy had been guided throughout his career by Eddie and Tony McLoughlin; brothers who’d become his promoter and manager respectively. He had a large following in the Irish-American community. Fans were buying tickets to his fights in large numbers. But he wasn’t being paid accordingly.

New York State Athletic commission records showed that the McLoughlins received approximately US$250,000 for the Smichet fight. John had been paid less than twenty percent of that amount. And that was just one example.

In autumn 2008, Duddy sought the advice of Craig Hamilton (who, over the years, had successfully managed several fighters). Hamilton made some inquiries and confronted the McLoughlins with what he believed was conclusive evidence of financial improprieties on their part. That was followed by a lawsuit in federal court, alleging breach of contract and other wrongdoing. Soon, John was a promotional free agent and Hamilton was his manager.

“This is a critical period in terms of John’s economic future,” Hamilton said when the litigation was over. “He should have made more money before, but the McLoughlins did what they did. From now on, at least he’ll be getting all of the money that he’s entitled to.”

Duddy’s first fight with Hamilton was a February 21, 2009, unanimous-decision victory over Matt Vanda at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Miguel Cotto vs. Michael Jennings. His purse (including a share of ticket sales) was $90,000.

Then John stumbled. On April 24, 2009, he crossed the Hudson River to Newark, New Jersey, to fight journeyman Billy Lyell. Lyell had slightly faster hands than John and got off first for much of the night. In round three, an accidental head butt opened an ugly slice on Duddy’s left eyelid. At the close of round four, John shook Lyell with a left hook up top (the best punch of the fight). Billy won the round, but five and six belonged to Duddy, who finally got his jab untracked, backing Lyell up and splitting Billy’s nose open in the process.

When John jabbed effectively, he controlled the fight. But he didn’t do it often enough. The decision could have gone either way. Lyell won a split verdict.

After the loss to Lyell, John reunited with Harry Keitt. He’d trained with Keitt for most of his pro career, before leaving at Eddie McLoughlin’s suggestion to work with Don Turner and then Pat Burns.

Next, Hamilton sat down with Top Rank (which had expressed interest in promoting John) to chart a course for the future. There was the usual back-and-forth with regard to money. During negotiations, Bob Arum was quick to point out Duddy’s deficiencies as a fighter, which led Craig to complain, “Bob negotiates like a guy who’s seducing a woman. He pursues her for a year. And when she finally agrees to go to bed with him, he tells her she’s fat but he still wants to fuck her.”

In the end, there was a meeting of the minds.

On October 10, 2009, Duddy pounded out a lopsided unanimous decision over Michi Munoz at Madison Square Garden on a Top Rank card headlined by Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa. Three months later, he returned to the scene and knocked out Juan Astorga in the first round.

The pieces of the puzzle that Arum and Hamilton were putting together were falling into place.

On March 13, 2010, John journeyed to Dallas for a showcase fight against Michael Medina on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey in Cowboys Stadium. He controlled the action throughout the bout en route to a ten-round triumph.

“It didn’t feel any different, really,” Duddy said of the spectacle at Cowboys Stadium. “It’s like when I first fought at Madison Square Garden. It’s a beautiful wrapping, but the present inside is what counts.”

John’s father, Mick Duddy, had come to Dallas for the fight. Mick knows the hard side of boxing, having compiled a 3-and-4 record as a club fighter in the 1980s.

“John is living his dream,” Mick said in the euphoria of Dallas. “Where I come from, people can only dream of this sort of thing; being part of this event in this stadium, fighting on the same card as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I’m so proud of John. And more than that, I’m happy for him. But I have to be honest; there’s always a wee bit of fear in me. I put it in the back of my mind. But this is boxing. I know that everything could change with one punch. And I don’t just mean losing a fight.”

*


Meanwhile, seven days after John Duddy made his professional debut at a small club-fight show in New York, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr entered the ring for the first time in Culiacan, Mexico.

Chavez had (and still has) a hard act to follow. His father was one of Mexico’s greatest fighters. Julio Cesar Chavez Sr won 107 times in a 115-bout career and captured championships at 130, 135, and 140 pounds.

Junior has been brought along slowly by Top Rank. He began boxing at 130 pounds and, by the start of 2010, had worked his way up to 160. His record stood at 40-and-0 with 1 draw, but the opposition was suspect at best. Many of his opponents had come from places like Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota. The number of African-American opponents he’d faced could be counted on Arum’s fingers with digits to spare. Yet, because of his name, he’d become the biggest draw in Top Rank’s “Latin Fury” pay-per-view series.

“Chavez,” Bart Barry writes, “built his following the old-fashioned way. He inherited it.”

But in fairness to Julio, he’d turned pro with virtually no amateur experience, so it was logical for him to learn his trade against less-than-stellar opposition. And anyone who’s unbeaten in forty-one fights, no matter what the level of opposition, can fight a bit.

Chavez-Duddy was a fight that both camps had been pointing toward. Each fighter had a “name” and was marketable. Each fighter was confident that he could beat the other. Chavez was guaranteed a $500,000 purse. Duddy would receive $125,000 plus an additional $10,000 in training expenses. It was the first time in his career that John was the “opponent” and the “B side” of a promotion. The fight would be for the World Boxing Council’s middleweight “silver belt.”

In recent years, the WBC has become a parody of itself, creating new titles in exchange for sanctioning fees and looking for other ways to separate fighters from anything of value (such as fight-worn equipment). The other major sanctioning bodies aren’t much better. But WBC president Jose Sulaiman seems particularly shameless and self-righteous about it.

The WBC received $18,750 in sanctioning fees for attaching its “silver belt” to Chavez-Duddy. More significantly, perhaps, Sulaiman gained control over the assignment of officials.

The Alamodome was the site of one of the most blatant robberies in boxing history, when Pernell Whitaker thoroughly outclassed Julio Cesar Chavez Sr on September 10, 1993, in a WBC title fight, only to have two of the judges rule the bout a draw.

The Duddy camp wanted a twelve-round fight, believing that the two “championship” rounds would work to John’s advantage. The price it paid was bringing the WBC into the mix.

“Fighting Julio Cesar Chavez Jr for the WBC silver belt in Texas isn’t a recipe for a fair fight,” Hamilton acknowledged. “Texas has had problems in the past when guys come in to fight someone from Texas or a Mexican fighter. There’s no question who Jose Sulaiman wants to win. Chavez Jr is practically his grandson. And Julio is a cash cow for Top Rank. I don’t care what Arum says. Top Rank wants Chavez to win.”

“But there’s really no choice,” Hamilton continued. “This is the right fight for John. It’s a fight he can win, and winning will help him get to where he wants to be. Chavez isn’t going to Ireland and we’re not going to Mexico, so it makes economic sense to have the fight in Texas. We need a belt for the fight to be twelve rounds, so we’re stuck with the WBC. All I can do is lobby for a fair fight and let people know that I won’t go quietly if John gets robbed.”

Duddy, for his part, said simply, “I’m coming to do my job, like I do for every fight. I don’t appoint the referee and judges. I have to take care of my part of the bargain. After that, what happens happens.”

Team Duddy was optimistic that what happened would be good. John doesn’t have the physical gifts of an elite fighter. And he’s prone to defensive lapses. But his footwork is good; his chin is great; he’s always in shape. And over the years, he has demonstrated a will of iron.

Chavez was used to brawling with opponents who weren’t physically or mentally tough enough to brawl with him. John could brawl.

“I think it will be a tough physical fight,” Duddy said. “The two of us are pretty aggressive fighters. I plan to keep the pressure on all night. I can box; I can punch; I can take a punch. And I can do it for twelve rounds. I’ve been in fights where I had to answer the question, ‘Do I want to be a fighter or do I want to quit?’ Chavez hasn’t had to answer that question. I’ll be going into waters where I’ve been before and Chavez hasn’t.”

Duddy was a better fighter than anyone Chavez had fought. Also, the two men had one common opponent. Julio fought Matt Vanda twice in 2008. In the first fight between them, Chavez emerged with a split-decision triumph that most observers regarded as a gift. In the second fight, the verdict in his favor was more honest.

Duddy fought Vanda in 2009 and won a 99-91, 99-91, 97-93 decision.

And more important, Chavez had a reputation for coming into fights in less-than-stellar condition and fading late. Indeed, in his most recent outing (against Troy Rowland), he’d been so out of shape that at times he looked like a caricature of himself.

Not coming to a fight in the best shape possible is the first step toward quitting in a fight.

“Julio wasn’t putting in the effort that is needed to be a world-class fighter,” Bob Arum acknowledged. “You can have all the skills. But if you’re not training properly and you struggle to make weight, you’re not going to give a first-class performance. Finally, Julio listened. He understood that Duddy is better than all of the other guys he’s fought and that he had to raise his game to beat John.”

In the past, Julio had trained in Mexico with his uncles, Rodolfo Chavez and Miguel Molleda. For Chavez-Duddy, he trained in Los Angeles with Freddie Roach.

Chavez had visited Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles earlier this year. “The day I saw him train Pacquiao was the day I decided I want to be part of this,” Julio said later. “If I wanted bigger and better things, I had to make a change. I was used to doing my own thing; and I knew that I couldn’t train that way if I want to be great. The fight against Rowland and the first fight against Vanda were the worst times of my life. I had to lose twelve pounds in three days before the Rowland fight. That’s when I told myself, ‘I can’t go on like this. I knew I had to make a change. So why not do it with the best.”

Roach had expected to begin work with Chavez in early-May, but Julio was a no-show in Los Angeles. It was unclear whether that was because of visa problems or ambivalence on Chavez’s part.

“It got to a point where I was going to give him one more day and then call the whole thing off,” Freddie remembers. “You want six to eight weeks preparation time for a situation like this. And when Julio arrived, we only had four weeks. Also, I’d heard all the stories about how he’s lazy and he won’t do this and he won’t do that. I’m not going to yell at a grown man. The way I look at it is; we’ll discuss what to do. Then, if you don’t want to do it, I don’t want to be with you. There was an over-under on how long Julio would last with me. Most people figured that he’d be gone in a week. But he was great. I saw right away that he wanted to learn. He did everything I asked him to do. He told me that he’d done four weeks of conditioning in Mexico before he came to Los Angeles; so by the time I started working with him, he was in as good shape as he’s been in for some of his fights. I pushed him. He never complained. We had a great training camp.”

Alex Ariza oversees the conditioning program for Roach’s elite fighters.

“In an eight-week camp, you start with strength,” Ariza says. “The last three weeks, you focus on footwork and speed. Here, we only had four weeks; so we skipped the strength phase and went right to speed. Julio had always been surrounded by people who let him do whatever he wanted to do. But at the Wild Card, he wasn’t the one who dictated the terms. The first day, I woke him up at five o’clock in the morning to go running. The next day, he was up at five o’clock on his own, ready to go. He responded well to every challenge we put to him.”

Initially, Chavez had doubts regarding parts of his new training regimen. “Alex made me drink at least one gallon a water every day,” he recalled shortly before fighting Duddy. “I said to him, ‘I won’t make weight.’ And Freddie told me, ‘Don’t worry about it. Alex knows what he’s doing.’”

As for the overall picture, Chavez noted, “Any time you make a move to the unknown, you get nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I have never been with a trainer as good as Freddie. I had heard great things about him. But until you are with him, you don’t know what he’s capable of doing. The things they ask me to do are not hard to do. They just ask that it be done at a certain pace. I was not used to working that intense for that long a time. I needed someone to direct me and show me what I needed to do. Before, I didn’t have a belief in my conditioning to do all the things I wanted to do in the ring. Now I know I’m in the best physical shape that I’ve ever been in and I am well prepared. This fight is my biggest challenge. Duddy is a very strong, very good fighter. But I’m very confident. This is the start of the big part of my career.”

Roach had a similar view.

“We know what we have in front of us, and we’ll be ready for it,” the trainer said of Chavez-Duddy. “Julio is in great shape. He knows he can go twelve rounds without getting tired. He isn’t quite where I want him to be with the moves we’ve been working on. But he’s improving and he knows what he has to do to win the fight. Julio’s jab will be the key if he uses it the way he should. I want him to box and keep Duddy at the end of his jab. If he does that, he can make it an easy fight. If he brawls, it gives Duddy a chance. Julio likes to go inside and go to the body. I’m not going to take that away from him. It’s in his DNA. But I want him to get inside in an intelligent way.”

The odds were 7-to-2 in favor of Chavez. For the first time in Duddy’s career, he was an underdog. Once the bell rings, good looks and charm don’t help. Moreover, as previously noted, there was a belief in some circles that the playing field would be tilted in Chavez’s favor.

In the months leading up to the fight, Craig Hamilton placed a series of telephone calls to Dickie Cole (administrator of combat sports for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation). His primary concern was the appointment of officials. Technically, the State of Texas would designate the referee and judges. But as a matter of course, Cole was expected to adhere to the recommendations of Jose Sulaiman.

Sulaiman was hardly an impartial observer. Twelve days before the fight, he declared, “This is now the time for Julio to prove if he’s ready for a title challenge. If Julio wins, he’ll fight for either the middleweight or super-welterweight championship, whichever is available. I believe he’s going to be a world champion. He has tremendous opportunities and great ability as a boxer. With his new trainer Freddie Roach, we are going to see the real Chavez.”

On June 7th, the WBC advised Top Rank (which informed Hamilton) that the officials for Chavez-Duddy would be referee Jon Schorle (who has homes in Texas and California) and judges Glen Rick Crocker of Texas, Julie Lederman of New York, and Jurgen Langos of Germany. In Hamilton’s mind, Langos’s appointment cast a pall over the proceedings.

“We know that Sulaiman wants Chavez to win the fight,” Craig noted. “If he’s bringing a judge all the way from Germany to Texas for a fight between an Irishman and a Mexican, that judge is going to know it too. And the judge is going to understand that, if he scores the fight for Chavez, he’s likely to get some very lucrative WBC judging assignments in the future. I know the crowd will be rooting for Chavez. I hope that doesn’t include the referee and judges.”

Duddy was philosophical when apprised of the situation.

“This is the biggest fight of my career so far,” John said. “And I’m not going in it to lose. I know what I bring to the fight. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it’s not, it’s not. It’s not about Texas; it’s not about Chavez’s father. When the bell rings, it’s just him and me. I expect that this will be the toughest fight of my career. And if I have my way, it’s going to be the toughest fight of his career as well. One of two things will happen. If he quits, he quits. And if he fights, the better man will win.”

It was a good fast-paced action fight that began with Duddy as the aggressor. Chavez was clearly the quicker of the two men and landed when he got off first. Julio didn’t jab in the early going as much as Roach wanted him to. But he found a home for his left hook and lead right hand.

By round four, it was a slugfest. Duddy wanted to brawl. Chavez obliged him, landing the harder more effective punches. Then in round six, John landed a hard counter right that buckled Julio’s knees and left him looking momentarily like a man who was trying to walk in a canoe that was floating downriver.

After six rounds, two of the judges had the fight scored dead even. More importantly, it was a war of attrition, which was the fight that John wanted. The second half of the bout was supposed to be his. But the first six rounds had taken more out of him than they’d taken out of Chavez. Julio had landed the harder punches. He was better-conditioned than he’d ever been before. And the seven-year age difference between the fighters was showing.

In round seven, Chavez started beating Duddy up. As the fight wore on, John absorbed hellacious punishment. His face turned an ugly shade of purple and began to swell. Time and time again, he was driven to the ropes. Julio landed blow after blow. John took the punishment and fired back.

“Go out and finish this guy,” Roach told Chavez several times between rounds.

Chavez pounded Duddy mercilessly. John simply would not fall.

“Fuck,” Freddie muttered more than once during the late rounds. “This guy won’t quit.”

“I thought about stopping it,” Harry Keitt said afterward. “But each time John came back to the corner, he was alert and focused. He kept throwing back. He threw punches the whole twelve rounds.”

Rounds eleven and twelve were the two extra rounds that Team Duddy had wanted. Now they were a walk through fire with no realistic hope of victory. Chavez was loading up on his punches, confident that John had lost the power to hurt him. But John kept fighting with everything that was in him. He wasn’t just trying to survive. He was trying to win.

Chavez didn’t want it more. He just fought better.

This writer scored the bout 117-111 for Chavez. That was in line with Julie Lederman (117-111) and Glen Rick Crocker (116-112). Jurgen Langos watched the fight from La-La Land and gave every round to Chavez. That warrants a word on the officiating.

Jon Schorle’s conduct of the fight enhanced his reputation as an honest competent referee. His pre-fight instructions were a model of clarity. During the fight, he performed his duties in a manner that ensured a level playing field, while closely monitoring Duddy’s physical condition as the bout progressed.

Lederman and Crocker (both capable judges) turned in scorecards that were well within the range of honest competent scoring.

That leaves Langos. His responsibility wasn’t to score every round for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. It was to turn in a scorecard that accurately reflected the fight.

There were seven rounds in Chavez-Duddy that Julio clearly won (three, four, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven). John clearly won round six. Rounds one, two, five, and twelve were up for grabs. To score the fight a shutout for Chavez strains credibility. And it was particularly offensive given the courage that Duddy showed in the face of brutal adversity.

The most charitable explanation for Langos’s scorecard is that Jurgen was tired after his long trip from Germany and might have had trouble concentrating on the fight. State athletic commissions in the United States should make a point of sparing him the burden of similar trips in the future. It’s not enough to have two honest capable judges at a fight. Suppose Chavez-Duddy had been close, with Lederman and Crocker split on the issue of which fighter won. Langos would have cast the deciding vote.

Apologists for the WBC might say that Langos “did no harm” this time.

He could have.

In the dressing room after the fight, Duddy looked like he’d been beaten up by three men in an alley. He was holding an icepack, shifting it from one eye to the other. His face was bruised, battered, and swollen.

John had fought with incredible heart and earned respect for his courage. But he isn’t boxing to win moral victories. He went into the sport to make life-changing money and become middleweight champion of the world.

“I’m sorry,” he told Hamilton. “I let you down.”

“Don’t say you’re sorry,” Craig responded. ‘You did everything you could. You’re my man.”

A commission doctor asked for a post-fight urine sample. When the task was done, John signed a label that would be affixed to the tube and asked, “Do I have to walk in a straight line and touch my nose, or can I have my check now?”

Boxing is a humbling sport.

John’s father came into the room.

“I love you, son,” Mick Duddy said.

Father and son embraced.

John left the room with a towel wrapped around his waist and went next-door to shower.

“There’s no way you can be around this guy and not fall in love with him,” Hamilton said. “As a fighter, he gives you everything he has, in the gym and in every fight. As a person, you couldn’t find a nicer guy. He has a kind word for everyone. He’s appreciative when you do something for him. He takes his responsibilities seriously; personally and professionally. I wish there were more people like him.”

Duddy returned, dried himself, and dressed.

“You don’t have to go to the press conference,” Craig told him.

“I don’t mind,” John said. “If I can’t deal with losing, I shouldn’t be in boxing.”

There was a quick call to his wife. “I’m all right,” John assured her. “I tried my hardest . . . I love you . . . I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Then he went to the post-fight press conference and told the gathering, “Julio fought a good fight. There was a lot of pressure on him. He performed and answered all the questions I asked of him. I took him into deep water. And yes, he can swim.”

It’s unclear where Chavez will go from here. His camp and WBC president Jose Sulaiman would love him to become a world champion. Toward that end, the WBC rates Julio #1 at 154 pounds. And he now hold the organization’s 160-pound “silver belt.” But things get complicated from there.

Sergio Martinez is the WBC middleweight champion. Realistically speaking, Chavez would have little chance against Martinez at this point in their respective careers. Alex Ariza thinks that, with proper conditioning, Julio can return to 154 pounds and fight for the now-vacant WBC super-welterweight throne. With that in mind, Ryan Rhodes is being positioned as a possible and very beatable opponent.

There’s also a school of thought that Oscar De La Hoya is unhappy in retirement and might want to fight Chavez. That would be a big-money fight.

“Julio is an athlete,” Ariza says. “He’s only twenty-four years old. He understands boxing much better than people give him credit for, and we’ve barely tapped into his potential. Give Freddie two or three full training camps and give me the eight weeks that Julio is in those camps. A lot of people will be surprised at what we accomplish.”

Then Ariza voices the view, “I honestly believe that, if Julio had stayed in Mexico and come into this fight like he came into his earlier fights, John would have knocked him out. John threw a lot more combinations than we expected him to throw. He gave Julio a lot more angles than we thought he would. He was strong. He was in good condition and resilient. His fight plan was perfect for the Chavez of eight weeks ago. And I’ve never seen a fighter fire back harder when he’s hurt than John did. He never went into survival mode. There wasn’t a moment in the fight when he wasn’t trying to win. He doesn’t have the physical gifts that Julio has. That was the difference. But he showed incredible determination and heart. John made a fan out of me. He personifies sportsmanship and everything that’s good about boxing.”

Duddy wants to keep fighting. “In all walks of life, we have our ups and downs,” he said after losing to Chavez. “Boxing is no different. You get up before the count of ten and move on. I hate to lose, but you can’t walk around with it.”

“You can’t overreact to a loss,” Hamilton added. “Did this loss hurt? Absolutely. It hurt watching John get beaten up and it hurts in terms of his career. But in any other sport, 29-and-2 is a good record. In boxing, it’s good too.”

The plan now is for Duddy to have one or two comeback bouts; then maybe a fight against Yuri Foreman at Madison Square Garden. Chavez is still a work in progress. John is pretty much a finished product. He’s a solid fighter with a fighting heart. In the ring, that’s not always enough. But he’s at peace with himself and who he is.

“I love my life,” John said the day after his loss to Chavez. “I have a wonderful wife. I’m fortunate to have the family and friends I do. And there’s boxing. I wish I’d performed better last night. But I am what I want to be.”


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His next book (a novel entitled Waiting for Carver Boyd) will be published later this month by JR Books. Hauser says that Waiting for Carver Boyd is “the best pure boxing writing I’ve ever done.”


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