The spotlight is finally on unbeaten junior middleweight James Moore (14-0, 10 KOs). The Irish-born Moore, now residing in New York, is headlining a card this Saturday, March 15, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, on the weekend when many of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities will take place. He has fought at the Garden before, but never in a main event. In both 2006 and 2007, the headliner at this same building on this same weekend was the popular unbeaten middleweight John Duddy.
A new promotional company has been formed with the chief goal of promoting Moore. Known as Celtic Gloves (http://www.celticgloves.com/
), they are undertaking this ambitious project of filling up the smaller room at the Garden on another St. Patty’s Day weekend in only their second outing. The previous two years, sizable crowds made up of mainly Irish-American fans filled this room in shows promoted by a company set up primarily to promote John Duddy, Irish Ropes.
Moore, now 30, is slightly older than the 28-year-old Duddy, but started his pro career in 2005, two years after Duddy made his first pro appearance. Both were amateur champions back home, both still speak with the tint of a delightful brogue, and both have been touted as future world champions who will bring back glory to the world of Irish boxing.
Duddy, however, as we know, has stumbled on the way up. While still undefeated at 24-0 with 17 KOs, he was badly hammered in his last fight by the unheralded Walid Smichet, now 17-4-3, a fighter based in Montreal who mainly fights there and who had lost two of his previous four fights. Smichet pounded Duddy in the early rounds of their Feb. 23 fight at Madison Square Garden, the co-feature to the Klitschko-Ibragimov non-fight. Early in the fight, Duddy suffered a huge gash over his left eye and was cut, bruised, and bleeding all over his face. Smichet, however, seemed to run out of gas after a few rounds, while Duddy’s corner worked miracles to stop the bleeding. Duddy was awarded a very unpopular majority decision, with two ridiculous hometown scores of 98-92, and one judge seeing it even at 95-95, which was more or less fair. Duddy’s cuts and gashes, and his disappointing performance in what was supposed to be a showcase fight, cost him a June 7 date at the Garden against middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, whose promoter, Bob Arum, had flown in anticipating to sign that deal.
After feasting on lesser fighters, none with more than a dozen wins, Moore, now in his fifteenth battle, is taking a step up in class. His opponent March 15 will be former world title challenger J.C. Candelo (27-9-4, 18 KOs). The 34-year-old Candelo, however, is 1-4-1 in his last six fights, with that one win coming in his last fight against a 7-22 fighter. Still, Candelo had a draw with Teddy Reid in 2006, and had those losses to notable fighters including Kassim Ouma, Verno Phillips, and Marco Antonio Rubio (along with an upset defeat by Eddie Sanchez).
Nonetheless, even a faded Candelo, who fought just once in 2007, twice in 2006, and once in 2005, represents a significant step up for Moore. In 2007, Moore fought five times, going 5-0 with 3 KOs against fighters with a combined record of 46-26-5 on club fight circuits.
At a news conference Monday at Jack Demsey’s (NOT Jack Dempsey’s) in New York, Moore acknowledged that he could easily build his record up to, say, 20-0 against lesser opposition. “I’m going to have to make this step sooner or later,” he said. “I’d much rather do it sooner.” After training at his home base of Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, he has just returned from six weeks in the seclusion of the Fernwood Hotel and Resort in the Pocono Mountains in Bushkill, PA. His trainer, by the way, is Harry Keitt, who until last year trained John Duddy.
Moore’s handlers certainly expect that he is ready for clearing this hurdle. Whether or not he stumbles and stalls along the way as Duddy apparently has remains to be seen. Already there are many who are questioning just how good a fighter James Moore actually is.
And yet, except to him and his team, it ought not to matter as much as some think it should. If the likable Moore, like Duddy, can only go so far, but remains a local draw among both Irish fans and the general boxing and sporting public, he could still be an attraction on the local and club fight circuit.
Something valuable in boxing has been lost when popular fighters with loyal fan bases reach their talent limit and are unable to advance to winning a world title, even one of the far too numerous alphabet soup belts. Promoters tend to drop them, networks shun fighters with what they perceive as records tarnished by losses, and most of the boxing media merrily follows the script set out by the promoters and networks.
We cannot know for sure how far James Moore will go in his pursuit of a world title. We will have a good idea after Saturday night how many tickets on a card headlined by him can be sold. If it is a nice crowd which enjoys the show, even if Moore is not destined to be the next whoever, there still should be plenty of room for him in the sport.
Boxing without a strong club fight circuit is choking off its own developmental system. The sport needs not only Mayweather, De La Hoya, Calzaghe, and the rest, but also the local club or even B-level fighters who can provide an evening of boxing entertainment to local, ethnic, and casual fans.
In which category James Moore ends will be apparent to all quite soon. However his career unfolds, there should always be room for fighters like him in some arena and on some screen.
Labels: boxing, Eddie Goldman, J.C. Candelo, James Moore, John Duddy