Khan v McCloskey: Could There Be An Upset?

By John Wight: Britain's Amir Khan returns to action this Saturday night when he will defend his WBA light-welterweight title against Ireland's unbeaten challenger and current European champion Paul McCloskey at the MEN Arena in Manchester.

This will be Khan's first outing since his epic contest against Argentina's Marcos Maidana back in December.

It was without doubt the toughest fight of Khan's career, during which the doubts which have plagued him over his punch resistance were dispelled at long last when he weathered an artillery barrage of punches from the hard-hitting Argentinian in the later rounds which no-one who watched the fight will soon forget.

Khan's display in Las Vegas against Maidana proved he belongs among the sport's elite and, though McCloskey brings to the fight an impressive unbeaten record over 22 fights, it is not anticipated that Khan will have to put in anything like the shift he did against Maidana in order to prevail.

Having said that, you only have to take a look back at the career of another Irish champion, Steve Collins, and recall that he got his chance at the big time when he was brought in as a last-minute replacement to fight the then flying high and unbeaten Chris Eubank back in 1994 for the WBO super middleweight title, to be reminded that in boxing anything can happen.

Collins took his opportunity and went on to bigger things, an example which won't be lost on McCloskey and which shouldn't be lost on Khan either.

If Khan comes to the fight prepared and focused, his power and speed should be too much for his opponent. But if he arrives with thoughts of a future unification bout against Timothy Bradley on his mind rather than the job at hand then who knows? One thing's for sure - McCloskey is sure to turn up having trained harder for this fight than he has for any other.

Other issues surrounding this fight may well have a negative impact on Khan's mental focus as well.

Last week it was announced that Sky Sports had decided not to feature the contest on its premier Sky Box Office pay-per-view channel and instead wanted to relegate it to one of its lesser channels in response to a weakened undercard after a scheduled heavyweight clash between Britain's Tyson Fury and Hasim Rahman fell through.

Also decimating the undercard was the announcement that Matthew Macklin had pulled out of his scheduled WBA eliminator against Armenia's Khoren Gevor in favour of a possible immediate world title shot within the next few months, thus proving yet again that in the quixotic world of boxing politics nothing is ever guaranteed.

Rather than accept relegation to a lesser Sky channel, Khan and his promotional partners for the fight, Hatton Promotions, have sold the pay-per-view TV rights to Primetime, with Khan taking a huge pay cut in the region of 1 million in the process.

Primetime up to now has been the only TV station to cover the fights of Carl Froch, Britain's current super middleweight champion and one of the most exciting fighters in the sport.

The lack of publicity and media coverage Froch's career has received up to now has been nothing short of a scandal, highlighting again the negative impact of moving boxing away from terrestrial television and the mass audience it once enjoyed for the pot of gold on offer from pay-per-view.

Sky's decision to bump Khan's fight down to a lesser channel was prompted by a lack of interest on the part of the public, with it being reported that only 50 subscriptions had been sold with just over a week to go to fight night.

But with the recent debacle of the David Haye and Audley Harrison fight still fresh on their minds, who can blame the people for refusing to part with their hard-earned cash up front on this occasion?

The promoters and money men must bear responsibility for the demise of boxing over the past few years.

The Haye-Harrison contest was a disgrace and a stain on the sport's reputation, and steps should be taken to ensure that the paying public isn't cheated like that again.

In terms of ticket sales the good news for Khan is that fight is almost a sell-out, with 14,000 of the 16,000 tickets sold at time of writing, though it would be interesting to know how many of these tickets were purchased before the undercard was decimated out of all recognition.

With no disrespect intended, McCloskey is hardly a household name.

As for Khan, since decamping to the United States he's slipped off the radar screen in Britain, with the result that the fan base he'd built up may well have lost interest.

What seems clear is that as yet Khan doesn't enjoy a substantial pay-per-view following in his own right and that without a big-name opponent in the opposite corner and a decent undercard to bolster the bill he can't expect to command the massive television audiences which the likes of Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather do.

Meanwhile, there remains the small matter of a fight to win and McCloskey to be overcome at the weekend.

In boxing one thing has remained constant regardless of the vagaries of money and the caprice of TV rights.

Upsets can and do happen.

Just ask Chris Eubank.

Article posted on 16.04.2011

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