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A Night at the Fights: A View from the Balcony

Jan 16, 2004  By Rick Caldwell
Last Friday night I had the pleasure of seeing a couple great fights live, and I don’t mean the televised ones everyone saw on ESPN. The non-televised undercard had two guys so early in their careers that I don’t feel quite right about calling them “prospects” just yet, but was so impressed by them that I was compelled to write an article on these two young fighters.

In the second fight of the evening, Elvin Ayala, 2-0, 1 KO, from New Haven CT, took on Keith Sonley, 4-8-5, 1 KO in a four round middleweight match up. Rounds 1 and 2 were fairly even with Ayala landing the better of the shots, but not really doing a ton of damage. In round 3, Ayala truly opened up on Sonley, almost landing at will. He ripped uppercut after uppercut to the point everyone around me in the balcony joked about him “really practicing that one.” I’m not sure if he always throws that many uppercuts, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!

He couldn’t miss in round 3. I thought for sure Sonley was about to go down a couple times. As the pro Ayala crowd rose to its feet, Ayala responded with more hammering left-right combinations easily winning the rest of round 3, and all of round 4. I had it scored 40-36 Ayala, along with 2 of the judges. The other had it 39-37. The crowd really liked this kid, and I don’t blame them.

The third fight of the night was one of my favorites. I love Irish fighters. They all seem to love to fight, and this Irish fighter was no different. John Duddy, 3-0, 3 KOs, fighting out of Queens by way of Derry, Ireland, took on a tough fighter named Ken Hock, 10-4-1, 7 KOs, in a junior middleweight bout. At first, I thought fighting a guy with a pretty good record was a bit much for a guy with 3 fights. I was wrong.

Duddy ran the show even before the fight. There must have been 200 people there screaming his name, waving Irish flags, and chanting as if they were at a soccer match, and man could he work the crowd. He kept everyone interested in rounds 1 and 2, and in round three he really dominated, scoring a viscous one punch knockdown in the closing seconds of the round. It was obvious Hock was really hurt. The bell rang while Hock was down, and he barely reached his feet by the count of nine, and not even realizing the round had ended, walked back to the center of the ring to resume the fight.

In round 4, Duddy picked up where he left off, and the fight was stopped shortly after that. Hock seemed like he could have continued, but he was not mounting any offense, and there was no reason for the referee to allow him to take anymore punishment from the much faster, stronger fighter. I thought it was a good stoppage, but judging from all the boo’s, I guess I was the only one. After the stoppage, Duddy jumped on the ropes and continued to work the crowd. If he keeps winning, mark my words, this kid will be a star.

The thing I liked most about both of these guys is that they worked the crowd. They kept the fans in the fight, and after their fights, they hung around in the arena, even taking pictures with the fans. Towards the end of the night, I actually caught up with Duddy for a picture. I didn’t tell him I write for a website, because I wanted to see how he’d react to a casual fan asking for a photo and an autograph. I even interrupted him talking with his girlfriend, and he handled it like a champ. He took a picture with me, then one with my friend, and thanked us for the support. He seemed like a great guy. Ayala also talked with fans, but by the time I got out of the balcony, I missed him. I wish these guys the best of luck, and if and when they become stars, you heard it from me first!

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