McCloskey opponent finally set

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PAUL McCloskey will begin making preparations for his intensive nine week training camp today having finally secured an opponent for his return to the ring on May 5th.

SIMON COLLINS reports

Matchroom Sport yesterday confirmed former two-time IBF world lightweight champion, Julio Diaz as the Dungiven southpaw’s opponent which will certainly appease the ‘Dudey army’ and Sky Sports TV bosses alike.

‘Dudey’ can now concentrate on his meticulous training regime now that Diaz (38-7-0) has agreed terms.

And the 32-year-old Mexican, will no doubt give McCloskey food for thought as he boasts an impressive record of 38 professional wins, 27 of which came by way of knock-outs.

In his last outing on May 13th last year, Diaz lost to Kendall Holt after a TKO decision in the third round but he will prove a difficult proposition for McCloskey having mixed it with former champions like Juan Diaz when fighting for the WBA light-welterweight crown in 2007, a fight he lost by TKO in the ninth.

Commenting on the announcement last night, McCloskey’s manager, Francie McNicholl was confident victory over Diaz would keep the talented southpaw on course for another crack at the world title this summer.

Having struggled to find a suitable or willing opponent over the past few months, Matchroom Sport were frantically negotiating behind the scenes and had whittled it down to three possible options with Juan Manuel Marquez, Demarcus Corley and Diaz all involved in talks.

Mexican legend, Marquez has since opted to take on undefeated Argentine, Cesar Rene Cuenca next month while Corely is now scheduled to take on Luis Eneresto Jose in Holland on April 21st, but McNicholl was delighted to confirm they have secured the signature of Diaz late last night.

“He’s a big name in America and he’s got a brother who’s been a world champion as well,” said McNicholl. “He fought Juan Diaz to unite the three titles but he lost that fight. He’s won a world title twice and it promises to be an excellent fight.

“Diaz’s management approached us to say they were interested in the fight and then negotiations started. We were down to three basically with Corley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

“Marquez has elected to fight an Argentinian as he doesn’t want to take any risks so he obviously sees that fight as an easier option and you can’t blame him for that and Diaz is a better name than Corely.”

Preparations now begin in earnest and McNicholl insists McCloskey won’t be affected by being out of action for so long.

“Paul is very methodical in the way that he trains. He’s just been ticking over in recent weeks. At one stage he was aiming towards mid-April and then late April and then it’s May, so it’s been disruptive. He’s been keeping himself in good shape anyway but at the same time it’s not his normal camp.

“Having confirmed the opponent now I think it will fit in lovely to allow him to go to camp and get his usual preparation.”

Having provisionally booked the Odyssey Arena for two dates at the end of April and beginning of May for McCloskey’s return, the Martin Rogan v Tyson Furey event on April 14th has since put paid to their hopes of securing the Belfast venue.

The King’s Hall has now been confirmed as venue for McCloskey’s showdown with Diaz and the Irish Middleweights Prizefighter tournament.

Unbeaten Commonwealth gold winner ‘King Kane’ Eamonn O’Kane, EBA champ Anthony ‘Fitzer’ Fitzgerald, Mark ‘Kid Dynamite’ Heffron, Joe ‘Sugar’ Rea, and Darren Cruise are the first names confirmed by promoter Eddie Hearn.

“If you imagine the best atmosphere of any Prizefighter to date, then crank it off the dial, I still don’t think you are close to what we are about to witness on May 5th,” said Hearn. “Couple that with Paul McCloskey’s faithful army of incredible fans and I believe this has the potential to go down in history as one of the great Irish fight nights.”