NEW YORK CITY — For three amazingly dramatic rock ’em sock ’em rounds, Walid Smichet was on the verge of, as I said he had a chance to, upsetting the John Duddy apple cart. He was just flat bombing Duddy out of the place as Duddy tried to out-slug him. But then, Duddy discovered some boxing skill and pulled out a win. Could this jeopardize Duddy’s fight with rising star Kelly Pavlik? We’ll find out tonight, apparently, after the Vitali Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov fight.
The middleweight (160 lbs.) sensation Duddy was getting battered awfully early on, and by the end of the third, his left eye was a bloody mess courtesy a deep, horrific gash created by Smichet’s shorter, hammering punches.
But Duddy, I thought, won every round after until the 10th, when the Canadian Smichet outworked the fleeing Irishman. Realizing that a slugfest wasn’t suiting him, Duddy established his jab, then the uppercut, then the rest. He also began ducking Smichet’s punches and controlling the distance better, and Smichet looked tired and/or hurt in the fifth and slowed. He would occasionally find his best punching range in the late rounds, but Duddy was largely in charge.
I scored it 96-94. One judge scored it a draw, which drew boos. The other two judges scored it 98-92 for Duddy, which also drew boos.
Duddy said afterwards that he was “trying to hard to impress.” He acknowledged it wasn’t his best performance, and said he would leave the fate of his career’s next step in the hands of his advisers. “Clearly, I’m not that smart,” he said, smiling.
My respect for Duddy’s boxing skill and reserve of heart increased tonight.
But, flatly, I believed it before and I believe it more now: If the Pavlik fight is made, Pavlik will absolutely moider him. Just. Straight. Murder.