JOHN BREEN believes he has devised the perfect formula to end Amir Khan’s reign as WBA light-welterweight champion, as undefeated challenger Paul McCloskey enters the final straight in his intensive training regime.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Belfast trainer has been meticulous in his preparations and claims he has never felt as confident in ‘Dudey’s’ ability with just 15 days to go before the mouthwatering world title showdown at the MEN Arena in Manchester.
As McCloskey’s intense training camp begins to wind down, the Dungiven man is clearly reaping the benefits - appearing leaner and stronger - and Breen believes they have developed a carefully constructed game-plan which will shock the Freddie Roach trained fighter.
It has taken many sacrifices and a lifetime of hard graft for the slick-moving McCloskey to reach the pinnacle of his career and having relocated to Belfast and enlisted the help of strength and conditioning coach, Oliver Cummings, Breen has never seen ‘Dudey’ in such great shape.
Feeling the full force of McCloskey’s punches on the pads, Breen revealed there has been a significant improvement in the European champion’s punching power and has warned Khan that his boxer is not just turning up for a major pay-day.
“I know Paul McCloskey will beat Amir Khan, I’ve never been more confident in anything in my life,” insisted Breen.
“Paul’s confident, we’re all very confident, we know he can do it. He’s training superbly and looks good.”
The 2009 Irish ‘trainer of the year’ has coached no fewer than five world champions at his central Belfast gym and he is confident McCloskey will become Ireland’s next world champion on April 16th, although he does concede the former St Canice’s ABC man will need his share of luck on the night.
McCloskey is 7/1 to shock Khan and maintain his unbeaten record, while the Bolton man is 1/16 to make a fourth succesful defence but Breen believes those odds are well wide of the mark.
“The better the opponent the better Paul boxes, that’s always been the case,” added Breen. “Paul has loads of ability and loads of class.
“We know what we’re going to do, we have a Plan A and a Plan B. If our first approach doesn’t work, then we’ll quickly change the plan.
“I think Khan’s in for a big surprise. He’ll be expecting Paul to come out and have a go at him from the start but it’s not going to happen like that.
“We’ll go out first of all and box and if we need to mix it up and fight then we’ll fight. I can see Khan getting flustered if he can’t hit Paul with the punches he throws and what will he do then?
“Khan’s greatest attribute is his speed but Paul is very, very hard to hit and if Khan’s throwing away punches in mid air, what happens then?
“We’ll still need a bit of luck during the fight itself no matter what we have up our sleeve, but we’re ready.”
Breen has pulled out all the stops in preparing McCloskey for the biggest night of his life, employing the services of Venezuelan boxer, Jhoan Perez, selected because of his physical strength and technical ability while former IBF light-welterweight champion, Paulie Malignaggi - who lost to Khan last May - also offered to help out.
“We had a Venezuelan boxer in sparring and we’re looking at someone else coming in next week. We were talking to Paulie Malignaggi about coming over to spar with Paul but he’s fighting on the same night so we’ll get someone else in that suits.
“Paul’s in good shape and everything’s going smoothly at the moment. Training is going very well, he’s done 80 rounds of sparring so far and he has another few weeks to go yet.
“He’s sparring again next Friday, then Saturday and Sunday and Monday. We’ll be in the gym and then we’ll go to Manchester that Monday night. So the training is nearly finished at this stage.
“I can see a big improvement in him, he’s a lot stronger now. Oliver (Cummings) is doing a lot of exercises with him and I can feel he’s a lot stronger, Paul always had a bit of puppy fat around him but you can’t see that now. I think when Paul gets off the scales Khan will get a fright because he’s seen Paul with bits of fat around his body but there’s no fat on him any more.”
Breen is looking forward to pitting his wits against Roach but was surprised he has allowed Khan become distracted with a possible unification fight.“I’m very surprised that Freddie Roach is letting that happen. Roach is the man of the moment so I’m surprised he’s letting Khan talk about that. They’re all talking about the 23rd of July and if they’re thinking of overlooking Paul McCloskey then God help them,” warned Breen.