22 February 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
John Duddy endured a torrid final three minutes to stay on track for a summer World middleweight title challenge after outpointing Matt Vanda in New York on Saturday.
The Derryman improved his ledger to 26-0 (17KO) in the Madison Square Garden bout, which represented his first since splitting with promoters Irish Ropes in 2008. Despite having been out of the ring since last summer, Duddy boxed well for much of the contest against the capable, if unexceptional, Vanda. However, in the final round, with a decision victory seemingly in the bag, some of Duddy’s bad habits resurfaced as he shipped needless blows from the game American.
Having made it to the final bell, Duddy’s overall dominance was reflected in the unanimous decision which saw scorecards of 99-91, 99-91 and 97-93.
All things considered, Duddy still looks a good bet to secure the role of challenger for World middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik’s summer date.
Pavlik, who himself returned to the ring on Saturday night following defeat at the hands of Bernard Hopkins at light-heavyweight, forced Marco Antonio Rubio to quit on his stool at the end of the ninth round. Now a clash with Duddy would appear to be among the most marketable out there, with Pavlik’s promoter Bob Arum openly keen on making the fight.