A lot of boxing fans are discounting John Duddy after his disappointing loss to Billy Lyell on Saturday night. They’re ringing the death knell on his career. It’s been written here before that Duddy is overrated, but in fact he doesn’t need to give up on his dreams of a world championship just because of this loss. Many titlists, past and present, encountered speed bumps on the road to success. Here are a few to consider.
• Bernard Hopkins lost his professional debut to the unknown Clinton Mitchell, then went on a five-year winning streak.
• Syd Vanderpool started out 5-0 with 5 knockouts before losing for the first time to 3-1 Terry Seay by TKO. Seay would finish his career 7-7 while Vanderpool would fight for a world title and finish his career at 35-4.
• Ola Afolabi fought to a draw with former football player Gerard Barber (1-0) in his first pro fight, and lost for the first time in just his fourth bout as a professional, against Allan Green. In March of this year Afolabi defeated Enzo Maccarinelli by late knockout to win the WBO “interim” cruiserweight title, at the same time improving his professional record to 14-1-1.
• Glengoffe Johnson ran his record to 32-0 before his first loss, then dropped three in a row. Then he won four in a row. Then he lost four in a row. Today old Glen is a former world champ and one of the most respected fighters in all of boxing, even with double-digit losses (49-12 record).
• Manny Pacquiao – famously turned pro at 17 years old and 106 pounds. The current worldwide pound-for-pound title holder, Pacquiao won his first 11 fights and was just beginning to look like a prospect when he was TKO’d by Rustico Torrecampo in the 3rd round. Torrecampo had won only eleven of nineteen career matches coming in.
• Minnesota’s man of steel, Will Grigsby, lost for the first time in only his second pro fight, to future star Michael Carbajal. After a five-year layoff Grigsby returned to the ring and after just thirteen more fights he was fighting for – and winning – a world title.
The list could go on and on, but I risk overstating my point. The point is that many prizefighters have won titles after disappointing early-career losses. John Duddy has suffered a setback, but it doesn’t have to be the end of all things good for the Irish puncher. The anti-Duddy crowd is at risk of overhyping his one loss even more than Duddy has himself been hyped over the last couple of years.