By Jay Mwamba
[caption id="attachment_42202" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="John Duddy at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn."][/caption]
While he mulls his next career move, John Duddy is set to make a quick comeback to the ring - albeit on the stage this time.
The recently retired middleweight makes his theatrical debut Feb. 8 - 13 in the title role of Bobby Cassidy Jr.'s one-act play, "Kid Shamrock," at the Atlantic Theater Company in Manhattan [West 16 Street, between 8th and 9th Aves].
The play, which also stars another former Irish fighter in Seamus McDonagh, is based on the career of Bobby Cassidy, Sr., an ex-world light heavyweight contender.
Dubliner Jimmy Smallhorne directs the homage to the vibrant blue-collar tradition of Irish-American boxing.
"I'll try this acting bit and see if it's for me and see if I like it," Duddy, said last week. "I may try to go back to school and do something."
Although his decision to hang up the gloves and walk away from a $100,000 plus March 12 payday against Andy Lee stunned the boxing world, it followed months of soul searching by the charismatic Derryman.
"I was really thinking about it for a long time - even before Dallas and the last fight," he disclosed to the Echo.
Duddy edged Mexican prospect Michael Medina on split points in Dallas last March but lost on unanimous points to Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., in San Antonio three months later, in what would be his last bout.
"Things seem to be getting harder every time [and] I never had that problem before," he said.
Still, he remained undecided, his mind going back and forth every day while he sought the opinion of family, friends and his handlers.
Long time friend and frequent training partner James Moore, the Arklow light middleweight who's own career is in limbo, then swayed Duddy's mind.
"He turned me to me and said 'you know, John, you could win this fight [with Lee], but if your heart is not in it you've got a really big chance of getting hurt and I don't want to see you hurt.'
"I was like, James, you're 100 percent right."
His mind made up, Duddy issued a statement on Tuesday last week that read in part, "I no longer have the enthusiasm and willingness to make the sacrifices that are necessary to honor the craft of prizefighting. I used to love going to the gym. Now it's a chore. I wish I still had the hunger, but I don't."
More significantly, the 31-year-old vowed that he'd never make a comeback.
Trainer Harry Keitt, who was in his corner for 21 of his 31 pro fights [29-2, 18 KOs] during an eight-year career, said there would be no attempt to coax Duddy back.
"He's been feeling like this before the Chavez fight. He was training but the spirit was not there; he's the one that takes the punches," Keitt said.
"We had a lot of great times together. He won't be the first [fighter] to walk away from the sport and he won't be the last," Keitt added.
Although he never got the chance to fight for the real one, Duddy did manage to pick up several fringe titles while establishing himself as the most popular boxer in New York.
Highlights included a stoppage win over veteran Freddie Cuevas, in what some hailed as his most dominating performance, for the WBC Continental Americas belt in Madison Square Garden's main arena in 2006, and a war with the seasoned Yori Boy Campas for the International Boxing Association title also at MSG.
In addition to his good looks, charisma and steel, Duddy will long be remembered for his blood and guts approach to prizefighting.
He was down just once in his career, a flash first round knockdown in his third fight against one Leo Laudat back in 2003 that ended with the latter prostrated on the canvas seconds later.
"He created a lot of excitement and revived Irish boxing in New York," said Andy Lee, paying the ultimate compliment to a long time rival he'll never meet in the ring.