PAUL McCLOSKEY’s reputation as a genuine world title contender lay in tatters in the King’s Hall on Saturday night after the Dungiven southpaw suffered a devastating stoppage against veteran American, DeMarcus Corley.
SIMON COLLINS was at King’s Hall
Disheartened and stunned after his sole defeat on home soil, ‘Dudey’ agreed he must now think long and hard about his future in the sport as the sun begins to set on his world title ambitions.
“It is a massive, massive setback for me,” was his honest assessment of the defeat. “I will have to sit down and figure out what went wrong but you have to give DeMarcus a bit of credit. He is a quality operator. His record might tell a different story but he is a quality fighter.”
And McCloskey’s promoter Eddie Hearn agreed that should he choose to continue, he must take a step backwards to prove himself once again at European level before climbing back up the rungs of the light-welterweight ladder.
‘Dudey’ had promised an improved performance from his unanimous points win over Breidis Prescott last September but that failed to materialise and at times he looked out of his depth against the former three time world champion.
When Corley (39-19-1) landed flush a crushing right hook which prompted referee, Ian John Lewis to stop the fight midway through the 10th round to the sound of stunned silence at the old Belfast venue, hopes of a meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez or a shot at the WBC crown were as flimsy as his defence.
The wily Washington native was given little chance prior to the fight with odds as long as 13/2 on a Corley victory, but the bookies got this one badly wrong as he dominated proceedings in the early rounds with his effective jab and counter-punching which left ‘Dudey’ chasing the fight.
A badly broken nose inflicted by a powerful right in the closing stages of the second certainly didn’t help matters for the Co. Derry pugilist as he struggled to breathe with blood streaming into his mouth.
In the sixth and seventh rounds he began to slow Corley and claw his way back into the contest with well timed body shots but the warning signs remained as McCloskey stubbornly kept his hands low.
All it ever takes is one punch and that’s exactly what the American delivered to great effect in a dramatic end to the fight.
Corley had softened him up with devastating counters and when he landed that crunching blow to the temple two minutes and 28 seconds into the 10th it shook him to his core, McCloskey’s muted pleas with the referee to continue falling on deaf ears.
McCloskey’s work rate had probably edged him just ahead on the judges’ scorecards at that point but Corley undoubtedly had landed the telling punches and they eventually took their toll.
‘C’ Rate fighter
To have no defence was simply indefensible and Corley admitted afterwards he was surprised at how low McCloskey held his guard, claiming the Derry man wasn’t yet at world class level.
“I’d say Paul is a ‘C’ fighter,” said Corley. “He’s not a ‘B’ class or an ‘A’ class fighter. I’d give Paul’s performance a C minus because he fights with his hands down and that’s not good.
“No fighter should fight with their hands down unless they just can’t get hit. Even Floyd Mayweather shouldn’t fight with his hands down. All it takes is that one punch and your night could be over.
“I landed accumulative punches on Paul but it was the last shot that I hit him with, that right hook and the referee thought he was really hurt. It’s the referee’s discretion to decide and he felt Paul was really hurt.
“I knew the fight would be easy,” continued the American. “My game plan was to try and knock him out within four or five rounds but his style wouldn’t allow me to do that so I went to plan ‘B’ which was to box and land the big punches and I knew eventually I would get the knockout.
“I was breaking him down. I was taking my time and putting my shots together and I knew eventually I would catch him but he made me fight a different game-plan.
“From round one I had a plan to come in like a locomotive train, straight forward and all guns blazing. I wanted to put Paul in a phone booth and make him fight. But his style at the beginning, he came out as southpaw and I knew he didn’t want to fight me in close. He wanted to counter-punch me. He wanted to watch me make mistakes and try and catch me with something. So I went to plan B - I can also box.
“I also can move my head real slick. And I knew I had more punching power than Paul so I wasn’t worried about his punches.”
McCloskey was clearly grinding Corley down in the latter rounds with slick shots to the body but Corley felt the Derry man had left it too late.
“He hit me with some good shots but it was too late. Those shots to the body, he should’ve done that in round one.”
Corley did have words of comfort for McCloskey and felt the Dungiven puncher can bounce back from the second defeat of his seven year professional career.
“I rocked him a lot and that was tough because he’s hard to it and a really strong guy – he can bounce back but tonight was my night, I was confident I could do it and I’m confident I can fight for a World title again.”
All the talk before the fight was of McCloskey’s path towards a shot at the WBC crown but now it’s about a rejuvenated Corley who has big ideas of his own.