McCLOSKEY OUT TO BEAT THE ONLY MAN WHO KO’D AMIR KHAN

�/Presseye.com - Press Eye Ltd -Northern Ireland - 4th April 2011. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Presseye.com. Paul McCloskey media session ahead of his WBA light welterweight world title fight against Amir Khan on 16 April in Manchester. Paul McCloskey pictured in Breen's gym during the session.
�/Presseye.com - Press Eye Ltd -Northern Ireland - 4th April 2011. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Presseye.com. Paul McCloskey media session ahead of his WBA light welterweight world title fight against Amir Khan on 16 April in Manchester. Paul McCloskey pictured in Breen's gym during the session.
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It’s Thursday and it’s 6.40pm and Paul McCloskey has just finished his evening meal. The 32 year-old Dungiven boxer has spent the entire day in Breen’s gym in Belfast getting ready for his WBA title eliminator with Colombian Breidis Prescott.

“The last four or five weeks have been pretty intense but my training is coming along nicely,” says McCloskey contentedly. “You have your good days and bad days but everything’s going well.

“I am really looking forward to the fight and hopefully I win.”

The September 10 bout at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, will be McCloskey’s first fight since losing in a world title bout to Amir Khan in controversial circumstances in Manchester in April.

McCloskey lost to Khan on a technical decision after he sustained a cut above his left eye in the sixth round.

Despite the McCloskey camp’s best efforts to secure a rematch with the Bolton born boxer they were unsuccessful.

During the post-fight press conference Khan said that the only way he would ever consider giving the former St. Canice’s ABC fighter a re-match was if he “beat all the fighters I have beaten”.

But McCloskey has gone one step further.

Breidis Prescott is the only fighter to have ever beaten Khan. In 2008 the Colombia-born boxer knocked the former Olympic champion out after 54 seconds of the first round.

The result shocked the boxing fraternity and as a result Khan lost his his WBO Inter-Continental Lightweight title.

“He’s a dangerous hitter,” says McCloskey. “He’s the only fighter ever to knock Amir Khan out so I will have to be wary.

“Boxing is what I do best so if I can do that against Breidis then I am sure that I will be able to win.”

Retrospection is something that McCloskey has made work for him and he explained that he has learned from mistakes along the way.

McCloskey was criticised for the way in which he fought Italian boxer Giuseppe Lauri. McCloskey admits that he cannot make the same mistake against Prescott.

“I’ve brawled as opposed to boxed in a few of my previous fights,” he says honestly. “I did it against Lauri [Giuseppe] in the King’s Hall last year and although I won the fight I didn’t make it easy for myself.”

He continued: “I can’t make the same mistake against Prescott - I know what I am good at and that’s boxing so, like I said, if I stick to my plan then I am sure that I can win.”

McCloskey battle with Prescott will be the first time he has fought in the Odyssey Arena. It’s an experience he’s certain to relish.

“I’ve fought in the King’s Hall a few times but to be honest I am really looking forward to fighting in the Odyssey Arena.

“It’s a bigger venue than the King’s Hall and hopefully I’ll have good support on the night.”

The support of his fans is something that is precious to McCloskey. He talks about them as if all of them were close friends that he has known all his life.

Many sports men and women insist that they appreciate the support of their fans but with McCloskey it’s different. It doesn’t feel like he has to insist because as he talks about his fans he evokes the image of someone who speaks kindly of old school friends who have accompanied him on the journey of a lifetime.

“Words can’t describe what my fans and supporters mean to me. They are all top class. Training for a fight can sometimes be a lonely experience but when you know that you have the support there it makes all of the difference - hopefully I can repay their loyalty next month,” he says.

In the hours, weeks and days that followed McCloskey’s defeat to Khan many of his fans made their feelings known through the social networking site Twitter - the response totally dumbfounded McCloskey.

“The way people got behind me was just amazing - I remember saying to myself, this is just great.

“Obviously I was really disappointed with the way in which the fight ended but it softened the blow a bit when I read the messages of support on Twitter.”

McCloskey accredits Twitter as the catalyst which led to his shot at a world title against Khan. He said that although he tends to withdraw from it during his preparation for fights he finds it a useful way of keeping in touch with his followers.

“I set up an account and after sending out a few messages to Khan both our teams got together and set-up the fight.

“The number of followers I had on Twitter went from about 10 to over 6000 in a few days,” he recalls laughing.

McCloskey is not like the stereotypical boxer. Although confident in his own ability he never flirts with hubris.

He’s as grounded a sportsman as anyone is likely to meet and when he’s not preparing for a fight he withdraws back into family life to help run the family business in Dungiven.

While many fights are preceded by press conferences abounding in farce and hyperbole, McCloskey has always refused to be seduced by the temptation to talk disrespectfully of his opponents.

However, his good nature and integrity have never compromised his focus. He’s as determined as ever to beat Prescott next month and said that if everything goes right on the night he is confident that he can get back to winning ways.

“I have been in this game too long to start making plans until my fight is over.

“It wouldn’t be right or indeed wise to talk about what I’ll do after the Prescott fight because I haven’t beaten him yet.

“Obviously I have dreams of fighting for a world title in Ireland someday but it’s not wise for a boxer to look past his next fight.

“Breidis is a dangerous fighter and I have been watching a lot of his fights on DVD.

“My training and preparation is going really well so we will just have to wait and see what happens.”

McCloskey’s ability to focus and train for a fight is like something straight out of one of the Rocky Balboa films. He channels all of his energy into reaching peak fitness and the image of knocking his opponent out is played a million times inside his head.

The summer months have come at a price for the current European Light-welterweight champion - he has had to spend a lot of time away from his wife and two young sons.

“Boxing is my career and I love it and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it,” he says honestly.

“In the weeks leading up to a fight people tell me that I become a different person - I don’t know what it is but I tend to become pretty withdrawn and focused on what I have to do.

“However, I count myself lucky that I am able to go home to Dungiven at the weekend to spend time with my wife and two young sons Cian and Oran.”

He continued: “I’ve been at training camp for the last five or six weeks now which means I haven’t been able to spend as much time with the boys as I would have liked. But they, and the rest of my family are extremely supportive and I’d be lost without them.

“Being away from the family is the part of boxing that I hate but my wife and boys understand. I love being at home with my family and in a way I use their support and understanding as an incentive to push myself that little bit further.”

Should McCloskey defeat Prescott next month it could pave the way for a possible re-match against Amir Khan. Asked for his thoughts on such a thing he refused to get carried away.

“I lost a lot of respect for Khan after the way he conducted himself in the press conference after the fight. I thought he was an ok fella before the fight but after it he was totally unprofessional and arrogant.

“I’ve put all of that behind me. I want to fight for a world title and to be honest I don’t care who it is against but like I said before I have the hurdle of Prescott to overcome first so you can understand why I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

Tickets £30 to £200 (may be subject to service charge). Box office: 028 90 739074/ 0844 277 4455 (24 hour) or go to www.ticketmaster.ie. Also available in person from Odyssey Arena Box Office, or at Eurospar Dungiven or any Euroexchange outlet.