Place of Birth - Krakow, Poland
Date of Birth - 7th June 1929
Contribution - Manager/trainer/promoter/matchmaker
Greatest Accomplishment - Guiding Lloyd Honeyghan to the world welterweight championship
Duff was born in Krakow, which is one of the largest cities in Poland. It was the capital from 1038 to 1596 and its origins date back to the year 966. It is near the Vistula River and is famous for its cathedrals and museums. Duff’s real name is Monek Prager and his father was a rabbi. During the 1930’s, the threat of Nazism from nearby Germany increased and led to his father relocating his family to the UK in 1938, and they settled in the Aldgate district of London. He had to learn to speak English and during the Second World War, Duff took up boxing and had over 100 amateur bouts.
Duff’s home city of Krakow
At the age of just 15, he turned professional and made his debut on 7th September 1945 in Watford. Boxing as a welterweight, his opponent was Sid Beech and he stopped him in the 1st round. Duff had mixed success and never won a title of any description. He never fought outside of the UK and ultimately compiled a record of 32-7-2 (4). Realizing his career was unlikely to reach significant heights, he retired in 1948 when still only 19. Following this, he gained employment as a sewing machine salesman.
However, the lure of boxing was too much and he was soon drawn back into the sport, though not as a fighter. From his previous stint, he had established useful contacts and he became a matchmaker. This involved travelling across the country and he established himself in the fight game. Soon, he was venturing into management and promotion. With his wife, Marie, at his side he launched the Anglo-American Sporting Club and began putting on small shows in the East End of London. The notorious Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, allegedly attempted to muscle in on Duff’s business but Duff held his ground and did not fall for their intimidation tactics. Whether or not his bravery would have landed him in hot water is not known because both twins went to prison for murder shortly afterwards.
Honeyghan benefited from Duff’s guidance
Duff started mingling with legendary boxing figures, including Sugar Ray Robinson, Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali. He later formed partnerships with renowned trainer/manager Terry Lawless and promoter/manager Jarvis Astaire and many of his shows were televised on BBC TV. Some of the notable boxers that Duff handled were Jim Watt, Alan Minter, John Conteh, Terry Downes, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, John Mugabi and Lloyd Honeyghan. Minter won the world middleweight title in 1980 by beating Vito Antuofermo but lost it on his 2nd defence to the awesome Marvin Hagler. Mugabi was a silver medallist at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Russia, and went on to challenge Hagler in 1986 but was stopped in the 11th round. Conteh was a pin-up star in the late 1970’s and is a clear indication of Duff mixing with some of the best names in the business.
Duff became a recognizable face on the British boxing scene
His most notable success was with Honeyghan, who won the British, Commonwealth and European welterweight titles and beat quality opposition such as Sylvester Mittee and Horace Shufford on his way to the top. In 1986, Honeyghan scored a huge upset when he defeated the seemingly invincible Donald Curry to become the undisputed champion of the world. The Curry-Honeyghan bout had taken place in Atlantic City in the USA and it was arguably the greatest oversees performance ever by a British fighter.
Duff was a keen gambler and also dabbled in commentary, offering his opinions at ringside for the Buster Douglas-Evander Holyfield world heavyweight title fight in October 1990.
Going into the 1990’s, boxing began to disappear from mainstream TV as Rupert Murdoch’s powerful Sky network entered the scene and essentially snapped up most of the major contests. Along with flamboyant rivals like Frank Warren carving out a place for themselves, Duff drifted into semi-retirement. He still maintained a degree of involvement and had a hand in the career of Richie Woodhall, who had won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in 1990.
There is no denying Duff’s incredible influence on British boxing since the 1960’s and the important role he has played in guiding the progress of some of the country’s best boxers.