John Duddy: From boxing ring to Broadway stage

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Media captionJohn Duddy with writer, actress - and love interest - Laoisa Sexton in For Love

As a boxer he was used to taking centre stage at Madison Square Garden, but these days a Broadway curtain call is more familiar.

Londonderry middleweight John Duddy was once a world title contender but hung up his gloves two years ago, and since then has pursued an alternative career as an actor.

He's now back home in Derry for the Irish premiere of For Love, a play set in contemporary Dublin and featuring three hard-working women and a Northern Irish man recently returned from America and looking for love.

Billed as a "romp" through their "urban sexual experiences", it garnered rave reviews from the critics during a recent off-Broadway run.

"When the New York Times is giving you the thumbs up you're not doing a bad job," said John.

"From the highs that I had during my boxing days to all of a sudden feeling just as nervous again and being on stage and wanting to do a good job, it's just fantastic.

"All the nostalgia came back, I walked the peace bridge and I could see a few people looking and saying 'Alright, John?', and even today one of my friends said 'John, we're all booked, we're coming to the show and can't wait but you'll be in for some abuse after it' - it's just great to be home."

'Rollercoaster ride'

Image caption John Duddy was once a contender for the world middleweight title

John, who will be at the Playhouse in Derry until Saturday, said it was all about embracing the nerves.

"It I wasn't nervous there'd be something wrong!

"It's the same feeling I had when I was boxing - it's adrenaline.

"I want to get started and I want to get on that stage.

"While I was fighting I wanted to get in that ring. People would ask me if I was glad to get it over, but I was glad to get started.

"It's a great thrill and a great challenge - I love walking that tightrope."

John suffered only two defeats in a 31-fight career - but says he has no regrets about leaving boxing behind.

"Would you miss getting punched in the face for a living? I don't.

"I'm proud of what I achieved, in fact I did more than I think I ever dreamed I could, but once fighting in Madison Square Garden wasn't making me happy any more what was the point?

"The only one who was going to suffer was myself, and for me the easy option was just to walk away from it.

"I'm glad about what I achieved but that chapter's closed and hopefully now another chapter's opening up in terms of pursuing acting and the stage.

"With boxing, it's all about one night, you have one night to get it right.

"You spend all that time training but you've that one moment and once it's over it's done, but now when we do the show and wake up the next morning you now you're back on again that night and the adrenalin starts again.

It's an amazing rollercoaster ride, and I'm just so lucky to be a part of it."