If you haven’t already heard the name “John Duddy” around the neighborhood, you’re sure to be hearing it a lot in the near future. Duddy, a two time middleweight boxing champion, makes his home right here in Middle Village.

John Duddy grew up in Derry City, Ireland. His father had boxed professionally for a short time and started coaching John at the age of 13 to box competitively. In 1993, John started splitting his time between his home in Ireland and New York City. In 2003, he received a call from boxing manager Tony McLaughlin, who invited him to come to America permanently to “fight the best fighters in the world.” John took him up on the offer, settled in Middle Village and followed his dream of turning pro in 2004.

The 27-year old boxer says that making the move to New York has enabled him to hone his skills by presenting him with the opportunity to fight a variety of opponents. “New York is the best place to fight as people from all over the world, including boxing professionals, can be found here,” Duddy said. “Fighting people with a variety of backgrounds makes me a better boxer. Being exposed to different styles and strategies keeps me learning.”

Since turning pro, John has gone undefeated with a 20-0 record. He has 15 knockouts under his belt. He currently holds the International Boxing Association’s world title and the World Boxing Council’s Continental Americanus Belt. His most recent victory came the night of Friday, May 18, 2007, at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan, when he won a unanimous decision against Dupre Strickland (18-2-1).

A boxer’s training regimen requires real dedication. John works out at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn for 2 hours in the morning on days when he is not training. After lunch, he goes to the YMCA or takes a jog. When he is training, he jogs in the morning, goes to the gym in the afternoon and then trains in the ring at night. Keeping in shape is truly a full-time effort. As for his diet, he keeps it sensible. “I eat three meals a day, I don’t eat late at night, and I try to eat the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes, I treat myself with a piece of chocolate,” he said.

When not training or in the ring, John enjoys all that life in Middle Village has to offer. He resides a few blocks from Juniper Valley Park. “I love the park. It’s such a great place. I love to lay out in the grass and soak in the sun,” he said. “I wish I had a park like this to go to when I was a kid in Ireland.” He also enjoys reading the Juniper Berry. “I love seeing photos of what the neighborhood looked like decades ago. It’s truly amazing to see how this area has transformed over time,” he said.

John has many local fans. JPCA member Donald Steinmaker is one of them. “I’ve been a boxing fan since I was 11 years old, when I attended fights at Ridgewood Grove and Sunnyside Gardens with my father. I’ve always enjoyed watching local fighters in action. I’m now 74 years old and I love to watch John Duddy in the ring.”

Donald’s neighbors, Patricia and Keith McNamara, have been attending Duddy’s bouts since he first turned pro in 2004. “We have always enjoyed the sport of boxing, but seeing John in the ring is electrifying,” says Patricia. “He dazzles, thrills and instills pride in anyone who has a drop of Irish blood in them,” says Keith, a native of Ireland. “Outside the ring, this charismatic, intelligent and thoughtful man is the perfect ambassador for the sport of boxing, his country and his adopted county of Queens.”

John finds himself being recognized more when he is out and about his daily activities. “Many people have recognized me at the Laundromat, and out on the street,” he said. “I love interacting with my fans, especially the kids.”

John Duddy and Irish Ropes Promotions also enjoy helping kids. In September, they will hold a fundraiser with the hopes of raising $100,000 to benefit Performing Arts Technical High School in Brooklyn. Of that money, $88,000 will go toward two college scholarships for graduating students, worth $44,000 each. The remaining $12,000 will be awarded to teachers at the school to further their education.

What will the future hold in store for the Middle Village middleweight?

“The Beacon Theatre bout was John's last fight in the United States for the immediate future,” Duddy’s promoter, Eddie McLoughlin (brother of manager Tony McLaughlin) said. “We've been inundated with requests for him to fight in Europe. His popularity continues to grow and some say he's as popular over there as he is here. We're going to see about that.”

John returns to Ireland this month, to begin preparing for two matches there. He is scheduled to box as a professional for the first time in Europe in early July, and may box in his first professional European title bout in late August.

You can follow John’s career by logging on to www.irishropes.com and by looking for updates in future issues of the Juniper Berry.

Best of luck, John. Your adopted hometown looks forward to having you back soon!