PAUL McCloskey has vowed to make up for lost time and put himself back in the frame for world title honours when he makes his long awaited return to the ring this Saturday in Leeds.
The 34 year-old Dungiven light-welterweight ducks between the ropes for the first time in 15 months when he takes on journeyman, Dave Ryan (14-8) at the First Direct Arena.
It’s been a frustrating year for the Co. Derry man who felt he was edging back towards a world title challenge when defeating Manuel Perez for the WBA’s Inter-Continental strap at the Odyssey Arena.
And when a proposed IBO world title fight against South African, Chris Van Heerden collapsed at the final hour, it appeared the year would end on a sour note for the former European and British champion.
The Dennis Dobson promoted world title clash between Darlington’s Stuart Hall and South African Vusi Malinga at the Yorkshire venue however, offered an opportunity for McCloskey to shake off any ring-rust ahead of what he believes will be a big year for him in 2014.
And although he’s expected to see off the challenge of Ryan with relative ease, the objective is to get another win under his belt as he prepares for a make or break 12 months.
“It’s the right kind of fight for me at the minute,” said McCloskey. “Ryan has fought at a decent level. He lost to Curtis Woodhouse a few fights ago.
“I’ve checked him out and he’s a tough enough guy, but for me it’s just about getting active.
“I’m in very good shape and Ryan has a winning record - he knows he’s at it.”
Ryan has come in as a late replacement after John Fewkes pulled out and McCloskey is hoping to end the fight with an early stoppage.
“I’ll take nobody for granted but if I can take him out in one second. I’ll do whatever I can to do the job as quickly as possible.
“No matter what his record is or what his standard is, I’m going in there to do the job.”
‘Dudey’ tuned up for his Yorkshire fight with sparring sessions with good friend, Irish middleweight and IBF Intercontinental champion, Eamonn O’Kane.
They both share the same gym and are under the tutelage of Bernardo Checa in Belfast.
“I’ve been sparring with Eamonn,” confirmed McCloskey.
“He’s very good shape after winning the title recently.
“The way I feel at the minute I could fight at a far higher level but just because of my inactivity I just need to get back in the ring.
“Maybe I need to get rounds in but if I can take him out in one I will.
“Ryan has never been stopped but the way I feel at the minute I know I can do a good job.”
The Leeds bill will be screened live on Sky pay-per-view channel, Box Nation and McCloskey is hoping it will provide the necessary exposure to get back into the mix.
“It’s a big card with Stuart Hall fighting for the world title and it should be good but I’d prefer to stay at home.
And he has high hopes for next year.
“My target was to fight for a world title this year but that hasn’t happened because of the politics of the business.
“I’m not going to start pointing fingers at Eddie (Hearn) or anything, it just the way things happen.
“Matchroom’s in a bit of a boom, things are going well for them but there’s no fall-out with them.
“The key now is to get back to winning and get up the ladder.”
And the former WBA world title challenger hasn’t ruled a shot at winning back his European belt should the opportunity arise.
“I’m mandatory for the European title and that’s an avenue I’m looking at.
“I vacated that title to fight Amir Khan so if I want to fight for it I just need to give them a shout and we’ve been in touch with them.
“But if it’s not that then we have other options so I’m not in a bad place,” he concluded.