'You don't know what tomorrow brings' - John Duddy on life in New York's Covid-19 epicentre

John Duddy on New York life, boxing and acting

John Duddy has called the USA home for a long time.

The Derry Destroyer fought stateside 28 times during an impressive professional career, with only three of his bouts taking place outside America.

In recent weeks, the former middleweight title contender has seen his home turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. In that aspect he is far from alone, but there are few places that have seen the virus rip through the community like it has in the New York borough of Queens, where Duddy lives.

As of Saturday 11 April, New York accounts for nearly half of the 18,693 deaths recorded in America.

Elmhurst, a densely populated working class neighbourhood in Queens, is one of the hardest-hit areas in the epicentre of the US outbreak.

John Duddy
Duddy (left) lives in New York, having fought most of his professional bouts there

"Unfortunately there are a few people that we know in our community that the virus has taken," Duddy says.

"We're about three miles from Elmhurst Hospital, Queens has a huge and diverse population and this seems to be the worst area that's been hit.

"It's very worrying because you don't know what tomorrow brings, unfortunately.

"For us at the minute, life's very simple. You leave to get your groceries, your essentials, that's it."

Taking stock of an acting career and boxing with De Niro

Had it not been for the pandemic, Duddy would have returned to his homeland for the sold-out premiere of his new film 'A Bend in the River' at the Belfast Film Festival.

Despite plans being put on definite hold, the pause has allowed the 40-year-old to reflect on his successful transition from boxer to actor.

Since hanging up the gloves in 2010 after a professional career containing only two defeats, Duddy has enjoyed considerable success in acting, using some of his boxing knowledge to propel him into work with some of Hollywood's biggest names.

John Duddy
Duddy's new film 'A Bend in the River' was scheduled to premiere at the Belfast Film Festival on 5 April

"I was very fortunate to work with Robert De Niro in 'The Grudge Match," he reflects.

"I worked with him basically in a gym, working on his boxing technique.

"It's funny whenever I see it, I see little flashes of myself in his film character."

Duddy clearly left a positive impression on De Niro, as three years later the Oscar winner was instrumental in landing Duddy a role in Hands of Stone, the 2016 biopic of former three-weight world champion Roberto Duran.

"A few years later he called me because someone pulled out," he explains.

"I got to portray Ken Buchanan, who I never met, but my father was one of his former sparring partners."

There will be a time when Duddy can once again turn his attentions to the stage and the screen, but for now there are more pressing concerns both home and abroad.

"Hopefully it's something everyone can look forward to," he says.

"We are all just sitting tight for now."

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