PAUL McCloskey was left ‘sickened’ on Saturday night after falling victim to a controversial loss at the hands of a relatively unknown Englishman, Dave Ryan, at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
The former undefeated European light-welterweight champion (now 24-3-0), was stunned after a shock defeat to journeyman, Ryan - the third loss of his 27 fight pro. career.
Two of those losses were to high profile former world champions, Amir Khan and DeMarcus Corely, but this latest defeat will be hardest to take for the Dungiven southpaw.
It was supposed to be a straight-forward fight which would blow the cobwebs off after a 14 months lay-off and set him back on the way to another crack at world honours.
But his long absence from the ring - through no fault of his own it must be said - showed as he struggled to shake-off the ring-rust.
Despite having Ryan on the canvas at the start of the fourth round following a stunning right hook to the body, McCloskey was never in control of the fight.
The Dungiven man admitted afterwards it was a ‘below par performance’ and while it was always going to be a tight decision, when referee, Steve Gray awarded a 77-75 verdict in Ryan’s favour, it sent shockwaves throughout the Yorkshire arena.
The scores could so easily and, perhaps, should have been reversed in ‘Dudey’s’ favour and the Co. Derry man’s disgust at the two point margin was justified.
McCloskey stepped up to welterweight for this one and he struggled with Ryan’s bigger frame and longer reach throughout the eight rounds.
Unable to find his range, his trademark slick and evasive style was missing for much of the fight.
McCloskey, of course, is always his own biggest critic and he’ll be disappointed with his display.
And yet he felt he did enough to get a crucial win under his belt.
But it’s back to the drawing board as he plots his next move going into 2014.
Out of Range
‘Dudey’ struggled to find his range in the opening round and was soaking up Ryan’s effective left jabs.
Now aged 34, ‘Dudey’ was beginning to mark up above his right eye such was the success Ryan was enjoying when doubling up with his left jabs to the head.
McCloskey ended the round in the ascendancy, however, and landed with a solid overhand right to the head and his better workrate in the closing seconds to edge a 10/9 scored round.
McCloskey began the second in aggressive manner, cornering his opponent and letting shots go with more regularity.
The Englishman was covering up well and McCloskey was struggling to break his tight defence.
Indeed, the former European champion was failing to hit the target and was having real trouble evading that troublesome left jab of Ryan’s.
After a tentative start, both fighters exchanged blows in the centre of the ring at the beginning of the third but ‘Dudey’ was coming forward with greater intent.
Growing in confidence, McCloskey then lowered his gloves in an attempt to invite his opponent in.
Ryan held back but McCloskey landed a good combination to the body, letting the shots go at will with his best work of the fight.
Thirty seconds into the fourth round McCloskey landed a sweeping right hook to Ryan’s solar plexus and the Englishman collapsed to the canvas on one knee.
After a standing eight count Ryan was back on his feet and did well to regain composure.
It was a big round for McCloskey but Ryan recovered quickly and came out in the fifth throwing a lot more punches.
‘Dudey’ was countering well but he was paying the price for his low guard and poor defence as Ryan’s jab continued to land with ease.
The sixth and seventh rounds were tightly contested and could have went either way.
McCloskey was clearly tiring in the eighth, perhaps his inactivity creeping up on him.
The Co. Derry man was evading punches well and countering with good effect but as the round progressed he got hit with a solid left hand followed by a powerful right.
There was an anxious wait as the ring announcer delivered the verdict which was greeted by boos in the arena and a clear-cut mystified look in McCloskey’s corner.