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Dungiven southpaw tells Steve Wellings this is his big chance



AFTER addressing the sizeable audience that packed in to the Ulster Museum big-fight press conference, European champion Paul McCloskey made a slip of the tongue. The Dungiven light-welterweight, who challenges Amir Khan for his WBA title on April 16, wrongly encouraged fans to buy their tickets for September 12.


As Khan’s spokesperson Asif Vali jokingly reminded supporters to turn up on the correct date, veteran trainer John Breen quipped, “Don’t worry, September will be Paul’s first defence!” Such is the confidence in the challenger’s camp, Breen’s light-hearted response was no joke. The Belfast coach has always believed in his charge’s ability to tackle, and beat, the best fighters in his division and Team McCloskey sense a date with destiny in the MEN Arena.


“Paul will excel on the night, I promise you that,” assured Breen.


McCloskey has trudged the traditional route of British and European titles to reach this career-defining moment and feels that he is deserving of a shot after gaining a solid world ranking.


“I’ve worked hard to get to this point in my career,” said Paul. “It hasn’t been easy securing a fight like this, but we’ve crossed the line now and we will be ready.”


Indeed, discussions between the two camps quickly broke down and the damage done to a potential contest looked irreparable when both teams accused each other of untenable financial demands. But in this sport, relationships can be quickly mended when the price is right.


“I would like to thank Team Khan for picking me as an opponent; they could have picked other guys but geographically it was the perfect fight against me,” McCloskey explained. “He could have fought Peterson but Lamont got a draw in his last fight and people wouldn’t have been looking forward to seeing that one.”


The 31-year-old holds a perfect 22-0 (12 KOs) record and, unlike his more illustrious opponent, has yet to taste defeat. McCloskey sees an improved fighter in Khan, since the Bolton boxer was dramatically halted by power-punching Colombian Breidis Prescott in September 2008.


“Amir Khan has proved since the Prescott loss that he is a great fighter and a great champion,” opined Paul. “He’s developed greatly under Freddie Roach and in his last fight with [Marcos] Maidana he was asked a lot of questions and he came through well.


“My aim is to be in the best shape of my life and firing on all cylinders on the night. I can’t talk publicly about our tactics; I will make a plan with John Breen and take it from there. Every fighter has strengths and weaknesses. Amir is a superstar in world boxing and I’ll have to be better than my best to do a job on him.


“Going into camp is an option and the preparation will be top-class. I’ve never used a conditioner as a professional but I’ll use one to get stronger and it’s all about changing the way I deal with my preparations. There’s a possibility that I could switch styles and it’s up to me to change a few things if necessary and alter my style a bit. I think that the ticket demand will need to be discussed. I want all the Irish fans to be sitting together, of course.”


Trainer John Breen is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against opposite number Freddie Roach. Breen says that McCloskey’s preparation will be as meticulous as ever and he is confident that the level of sparring he is readying for Paul will ensure that his man is razor-sharp on the night.


“I’ve never seen Paul tired in his life and I think we’ll see the biggest performance of his career,” declared Breen.


“The better the opponent, the better Paul will perform. It will be a good fight and people say that Amir has a bad chin but every time he gets put down it’s always from shots around the side of the head or on the temple.”


McCloskey had Tim Bradley down as the best fighter in this top-heavy division, but changed his mind after seeing the Michigan man labour against Devon Alexander recently. He now rates Khan as the head honcho.


“He’s the main man now and we’ll get sparring partners to replicate his style,” Paul outlined. “At the end of this rainbow there is a pot of gold. Styles make fights and sometimes two good styles can make for a poor fight. I’m at my peak as a fighter and in two years’ time I’ll not be any better. This is the right time for me at this stage of my career.”


It is hard to see McCloskey getting a bigger chance to upset the odds and claim a world title. This is the pinnacle of his six-year career.


“I’ve been a boxer my whole life and trained hard since the age of six; it’s been a dream of mine to fight for a world title. I’m ready to grab it with both hands,” he concluded.



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I wont be paying for it and wont be going to it either


Yeah, cos you're better than those people who spend money to encourage total mismatche...ohhh no hang on, you already did, didn't you?;)




In my defence it's Vegas & it's seeing mates. I haven't got a ticket yet either and will not be bothered if I didn't get one.

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