McCloskey Came To Fight

Paul McCloskeyBy John Wight: Amir Khan may have won last night's fight against Paul McCloskey, but it was a victory which threw up more questions than answers as he looks ahead to a possible reunification contest against Timothy Bradley in the summer.

The manner in which the referee stopped the fight, with just 30 seconds to go in the sixth round, was lamentable if not downright disgraceful. McCloskey was eager to continue, and though the cut was above the eye it in no way could have been described as deep or severe at that stage. Denying the Irish challenger his chance to go on and his corner to work on the cut at the end of the round was inexcusable, especially in a title fight in front of a sold out arena and with fans at home watching on television having shelled out good money to watch proceedings on PPV.

It really does leave a bad taste in the mouth, and the suspicion that Khan was being protected will linger long afterwards.

As to the fight itself, though Khan was rightly ahead on points by the time the fight was stopped, McCloskey was well in it. From the opening bell the European champion looked comfortable, relaxed and confident. Indeed, adopting a hands low stance, you would have thought it was only a matter of time before Khan connected and brought matters to a close early. But for McCloskey and his camp there was method in what appeared the madness of standing in front of Amir Khan, one of the fastest and hardest punchers currently plying their trade, to rely almost solely on head movement and reflexes as a defence. By the second round it was clear that McCloskey’s strategy was to continue making the WBA champion miss in order to frustrate his work and prompt him to start lunging in and leave himself open.

The first part of the challenger’s strategy was certainly working as intended, with Khan at times looking like the model of old, the one we remember getting floored by Willie Limond and KO’d by Breidis Prescott in just 54 seconds three years ago. Lunging in with bombs and ending up off balance and open to the counter, you could almost hear Freddie Roach in the corner wondering what the hell had happened to a fighter he'd spent the past two years reworking from the ground up. Moreover, you could imagine Oscar Del La Hoya at ringside contemplating the future of a commodity that Golden Boy had lavished so much praise and expectation on you could be forgiven for believing that Amir Khan shat peaches and cream and pissed champagne.

The second part of the McCloskey strategy, catching Khan with counters after making him miss, the Irishman hadn’t yet been able to implement up to the time of the stoppage, as the one thing he lacked was the hand speed to take advantage of the openings he was being given. However, this isn’t to say he wouldn't have as the fight went on and Khan began to tire, which is why its premature stoppage due to a cut above McCloskey’s eye after a clash of heads was so disappointing. Of course the other possible scenario is that Khan would have eventually found his opponent’s chin with a right hand and ended the fight on a KO or a late round stoppage.

Once again, though, we’ll never know as the referee stopped the fight.

To be fair to Amir Khan, he was on a hiding to nothing going into this fight. If he’d won handsomely, as most predicted he would, then the post analysis of most commentators would have focused on the fact he’d taken an easy defence. If as happened he didn’t look convincing then as with the thrust of this article, questions would be raised.

Predictably and understandably calls for a rematch have come from McCloskey and his promoter, Barry Hearn, who after the fight looked ready to take the referee’s head off in the ring he was so enraged. But Khan it’s fair to say would probably rather nail his balls to a tree than give the Irishman a rematch. He’ll want to shrug off this fight and all the bullshit surrounding Sky as quick as he can and return to the sanctuary of Wildcard as soon as. With the benefit of hindsight even his own team can now have no complaint over Sky’s decision to bump the fight to a lesser channel. The Sky executives responsible for the decision will feel vindicated after watching the fight, while many of those either in attendance or at home who’d decided to stump up the fifteen quid for the privilege of watching on PPV via Primetime will be none too happy.

Last night at the MEN Arena, Paul McCloskey came to fight. He’d trained and prepared to take what for him was the opportunity of a lifetime. In the process he did himself and his country proud. He lost the fight but won the respect of most of the fans and those watching at home. After last night’s performance he deserves another shot at a world title.

Let’s hope he gets it sooner rather than later.

Article posted on 17.04.2011

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