EUROPEAN light-welterweight champion, Paul McCloskey claims he has earned the right to challenge for the world title and has the ability to cause a major shock if the proposed clash with WBA champion Amir Khan gets the green light this week.
SIMON COLLINS reports
Despite talks between both fighter’s representatives breaking down yesterday, McCloskey is still hopeful what’s considered a ‘life changing’ opportunity can be ironed out within the next few days, a fight which he feels would capture the imagination of the boxing public.
‘Dudey’s’ managerial advisor and father-in-law, Francie McNicholl and Matchroom Promotions have been involved in negotiations with Khan and Golden Boy Promotions since early last week and they hope to resolve their differences before tomorrow afternoon.
It’s understood Khan is anxious to get an opponent for the April 16th date sorted out before he takes a planned holiday prior to returning to Los Angeles where he’s scheduled to begin preparations with trainer Freddie Roach at Roach’s Wild Card gym on February 11th, therefore a decision on the bout is imminent.
McCloskey remains hopeful the fight will take place and believes Khan has considered him an easy option which could work in his favour should the fight be confirmed in the next few days.
The former Irish amateur champion believes his unblemished 22-0 record is proof he is ready to make the step up from European to world level and has challenged Khan to make good on his promise to offer him a shot at the WBA belt.
“I know there’s still nothing completed or finalised, we’re still in talks. At the minute I’m still down to fight Michele Di Rocco on March 5th but hopefully, fingers crossed we can get things finalised in the next few days.
“I’m happy enough, they’re interested that’s for sure but it’s complicated. It’s looking very good and I’m waiting to hear back from him. I think for an American like Lamont Peterson to come to England there’s no real selling point but for Khan to fight an undefeated European champion from Ireland, there’ll be massive interest.
“I was on Twitter and it was my brother in law who saw the conversation about me fighting Khan and responded. It all happened inside 36 hours, it’s mental. I’ve been in touch with his family and now it’s all a matter of if terms are right for me and for him.
“When the Peterson fight folded for whatever reason, Khan’s team looked at me, an undefeated European champion. I have the credentials and they must have thought I would be a decent challenge for him.
“Maybe they think I’d be an easy challenge which could work in my favour. But it’s an opportunity for me to move onto something bigger.
“Amir is talking about a lot of things that he wants to do but I will be aiming to upset his plans. I have won 22 fights up to date I am undefeated and a world title fight is the next move for me.”
Having watched Khan struggle against hard-hitting Argentine Marcos Maidana last month, McCloskey was less than impressed and although he acknowledged the improvement the Bolton boxer has made under Freddie Roach, he claimed he won’t just be turning up for a big pay day and truly believes he can become world champion.
“Khan is seen as something of a superstar but he’s certainly beatable,” declared McCloskey. “Yes, he’s improved dramatically under Freddie Roach but in his last fight Maidana had him rocked. There’s women on any dance floor that can dance better than Maidana and he had Khan in trouble so I wasn’t impressed.
“The referee could have stepped in and stopped the fight when Maidana caught Khan in the 10th round but it was Khan’s conditioning which stood by him, he ran like a mad man trying to stay out of the way.
“Maidana took serious punches from Khan but except for the that one body punch at the start when he went down he wasn’t rocked. Khan’s not a big puncher.
“I’m ready to move on. I’ve no doubt in my ability. I believe I can cause a major upset here if it happens. I’ve earned my reputation. Khan never fought for the British title but gets the chance to fight for a world title. It just doesn’t make sense.
“It’s all to do with marketing. I’m not a business man, I’m a boxer. I wasn’t even being talked about before now, there was no recognition and if this comes off it could change my life and I’ll do whatever I need to do to make it happen.
“My preparations for this fight will be a lot different, this is a different level. I could definitely surprise him. I’ve no doubt that I am ready to fight Amir Khan and I have no doubt in my mind either that I can win it.”
As it stands, McCloskey will be defending his EBU belt against Italian Michele Di Rocco on March 5th and while the Dungiven puncher regards that fight as a step backwards he insists he will accept any challenge to his European crown if the opportunity for the world title shot collapses.
“For me the Di Rocco fight would be a backward step. I know him from my amateur days but if I have to defend my title I’ll defend it against anybody,” concluded ‘Dudey’.