With his hero John Duddy at ringside, heavyweight Thomas Hardwick made a winning start to prizefighting with a third round TKO over Derek Walker on his debut in mid-Manhattan last Thursday.
Duddy had walked Hardwick to the ring for the scheduled four-rounder at the Roseland Ballroom and the ovation the 26-year-old Dubliner received was reminiscent of that accorded the now retired Derry Destroyer in his heyday.
The large Irish turnout had more to cheer about after seven minutes of one-sided action when Hardwick punctuated his dominance over the bigger but overmatched Walker with a fusillade of shots.
Walker, nicknamed "The Postman" finally caved in at 1:01 of the third, collapsing in his corner from the relentless pummeling. Referee Wayne Kelly quickly waved the beating over.
And despite giving up 32-pounds and three inches in height to Walker, the only damage wrought by the limited "Postman" was from an errant elbow in the second round. It opened up a cut over the 212-pound Hardwick's right eye that required four stitches and may sideline him for his next fight, scheduled for June 24.
Still, Hardwick reveled in the outcome on a memorable night.
"I really enjoyed it," he said. "I was a bit nervous at first but once I settled down, was OK."
Undefeated as an amateur [8-0], Hardwick said everything, save the cut from the elbow, went to plan.
"He was trying to jab and I was getting underneath his right hand."
That allowed him room to pummel the 6-foot-five Walker [1-5] almost at will. Hardwick repeatedly landed lead right hands and lefts upstairs and dug often to the body.
The former New York Daily News Golden Gloves novice champion was buoyed by Duddy's presence.
"He gave me a little talk in the dressing room, told me this was my night and that I should go there and take it; it inspired me," said Hardwick.
He likened it to a passing of the torch.
"My hero leading me out, it was very nice of him and I appreciate it," he added.
Jim Foley, Hardwick's manager was predictably pleased with the heavyweight's performance.
"He looked very good. Tom's improved tremendously in the last six month," he said.
Foley's only source of concern was the little cut suffered by Hardwick that could keep him off the June 24 card he'll co-promote at Cordon Bleu restaurant in Woodhaven, Queens.
"It will be disappointing if Tom can't fight," Foley noted.