By Declan Hughes
UNION CITY, NJ- When arriving to Union City’s boxing gym, I felt like I was transported back in time. The city has distinct noir feel. The gym itself looks like it’s been there since the 1930’s. I was meeting my friend and one of my favorite fighters to watch, Danny “Little Mac” McDermott, as he prepares for his October 22nd match up against hardened veteran Mauricio Pastrana. The two fighters will be contesting for the WBU Lightweight Championship of the World.
This will be McDermott’s first time on the world championship stage, while Pastrana is a former two time world champion himself, with key wins over fighters like the legendary Micheal Carabajal. Pastrana, at one time was a 22-0 WBA World Champion before his career started on a roller coaster. His most recent notable win to date was in 2007 when he defeated upcoming prospect Antonio Escalante with a devastating 8th round knockout. Pastrana last fought June 4th of this year when he lost a close decision against another ring legend, Johnny Tapia. With this kind of experience McDermott will have his work cut out for him fight night.
This doesn’t faze McDermott, as he talks with me while jumping rope. “I was born for this” he says emphatically. “Since my dream started as a kid, I wanted this. I trained with the best. I’ve been in the ring with great fighters.” He is speaking of his 100 or so rounds with ring legend and McDermott’s mentor, Arturo Gatti and his sparring sessions with great fighters like Bones Adams, Junior Jones, Paulie Malignaggi, Sharmbe Mitchell just to name a few.
McDermott started boxing in his home town of North Bergen NJ at 12 years old, the same hometown of the famed “Cinderella Man” James J.Braddock. In fact, winning this world title would make McDermott the first native born North Bergen fighter to win the world title since Braddock. McDermott has had his ups and downs in his boxing career and now has a new team surrounding him. He is now managed by prominent New York business men Jackie Coonan and Sean Cummiskey and is trained by former IBF Middleweight Champ, Mark Medal. He is looking to capitalize on what he calls his “Cinderella Shot”.
“History repeats itself, ya know. I look at Braddock’s life and I see a very similar life-we both come from Irish roots (McDermott’s family hails from Foxford, Mayo and Donegal), we both didn’t have a silver spoon in our mouth at birth. We weren’t born rich, we were at one time top prospects in our division. We are workin men, family men who fell on hard times. That’s were I’m at now to be honest with you. I have this opportunity to win a top world title. Im thankful for my friends and sponsors who have helped me get ready for this fight. My sponsors Enda Keenan, Liam McGreevy and Richie Browne, they helped me through my hard times and kept me a float. North Bergen’s about to have another Cinderella Man!”
The fight will be at the 69th Armory in New York City on Oct.22. The event will be sponsored by Jack Demsey’s Restaurant and Pub as well as Legends NYC and The Quays in Hoboken NJ.