John Duddy on stage at the Irish Repertory Theatre with Georgina McKevitt in the 2013 production of Laoisa Sexton’s “For Love.”
PHOTO BY TREVOR MURPHY
By Jay Mwamba
Six years removed from his last fight, John Duddy returns to the ring this week before audiences of potentially millions. In his major motion picture debut, the “Derry Destroyer” plays Scottish icon Ken Buchanan in “Hands of Stone,” the highly anticipated biopic of Panamanian legend Roberto Duran premiering nation-wide this Thursday.
Buchanan was WBA world lightweight champion when he was controversially dethroned by Duran at Madison Square Garden in June 1972. Duran’s victory marked the start of one of the greatest championship careers in prizefighting history.
“It was an extremely amazing experience to have been involved with telling the story of one of the greatest fighters of our time, and to share it with my good friend and fellow T- Schreiber student Eliud Kauffman, and also to be a cast member with none other than Robert De Niro,” Duddy told the Echo on Monday. “I was too young to see the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, perform live but I have seen the great Robert De Niro work a scene.”
A former world middleweight title contender, Duddy spent time on location in Panama with De Niro and other cast members.
Playing Duran in the fight scene with Duddy/Buchanan is rising star Édgar Ramírez [“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Vantage Point,” “Zero Dark Thirty”].
“I have a couple of lines at the [pre-fight] press conference and in the fight scenes,” said Duddy, who added a Scottish brogue to his delivery.
De Niro, one of the world’s most prominent actors of the past 40 years or so, plays Duran’s late great trainer Ray Arcel. Active from the 1920s until 1982, Arcel’s list of world champions included Irish-American heavyweight James Braddock, aka, the “Cinderella Man.”
Incidentally, Duddy who was 29-2 [18 KOs] as a pro, trained De Niro for his role in the boxing comedy “Grudge Match,” opposite Sylvester Stallone. De Niro won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of another ring legend, Jake LaMotta, in the 1980 hit “Raging Bull.”
Other cast members directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz in “Hands of Stone” include Ellen Barkin and hip hop star Usher Raymond who stars as Duran’s most famous foe, Sugar Ray Leonard.
Duddy has appeared in several theatre productions. He starred in Laoise Sexton’s “For Love,” Bobby Cassidy’s highly acclaimed “Kid Shamrock” and in “Spudmunchers” written by Colin Broderick.
Duddy has studied at the Terry Schreiber acting school in Manhattan whose alumni include Hollywood stars Ed Norton and Maggie Gyllenhall.