Funny how quickly a fighter’s matchmaker can become emboldened. With the mouthwatering prospect of a world title fight against Kelly Pavlik on the horizon, few would imagine John Duddy’s handlers would be eager to sign up veteran middleweight Howard Eastman to a December date for the Derry born contender.
Wayne Elcock’s upset victory over the former two-time world title challenger appears to have consigned Eastman to the beatable, ‘name opponent’ dustbin. I don’t share their certainty. Without wishing to denigrate Wayne Elcock’s achievement in bettering the Battersea Bomber in their recent encounter, whispers about Eastman’s diligence in preparation and general motivation were hard to dispel in the weeks prior to the bout. Or for those who observed the contest.
Eastman looked bored and badly conditioned. Of course, he could just be plain old. He’s been a top-line professional for close to a decade and has mixed in good company across British, European and World fronts. Soliman, Joppy, Hopkins, Abraham and Miranda are all quality foes against whom Howard was competitive or better. Losing to Elcock would have been highly unlikely five, or even two, years ago.
True, the languid, eccentric Eastman is hard to predict and was pushed close by Richard Williams prior to Elcock too but he extended Abraham away from home not so long ago and with the Elcock rounds in the ‘bank’, he may prove to be a far more dangerous opponent for the December clash with Duddy.
Equally, in terms of motivation, Duddy provides a far more renown scalp for Eastman too. Victory over the much publicised Irish born New Yorker will leapfrog Eastman back into the world picture. Arguably providing more credibility than a successful defence of the British title versus Elcock would have done. A victory which would have kept Eastman in the, ‘far too risky’ category for emerging contenders like Duddy.
I doubt whether Eastman, a single-minded man, will cheapen his repute by simply adopting the ‘opponent’ mentality to implicitly further Duddy’s cause. Fitter, more active and with better timing and motivation, Eastman could well upset the Duddy express.
Not that the Duddy v Eastman as a fight should be criticised. After all, we’re all quick to highlight a lack of ambition among contenders. Duddy’s willingness should be applauded whatever the outcome.