It could be a case of last person out of Dungiven switch off the lights when supporters of champion boxer Paul McCloskey make their exodus ahead of his light-welterweight clash with Amir Khan in April.
The 31-year-old undefeated European champion and his managerial advisor, father-in-law Francie McNicholl, re-entered talks with Khan’s team last Thursday and by Saturday at 8pm the deal was done.
“I’m delighted and they knew it made sense,” Dudey told the ‘Journal’ yesterday. “It’s massive and this could take my career on a ridiculous path. It’s unbelievable, but it didn’t come by luck. I deserve to be here. It’s done now and this is where I am at.”
Even before the fight was confirmed, masses of people in Dungiven had booked their flights for the bout at Manchester’s MEN Arena on 16 April.
“People have been brilliant. I told them to wait to book their flights but they had them booked already,” said the dad-of-two.
“I’m fighting one of the hottest properties in boxing right now and I know I can beat him. I know he’s a brilliant boxer but he has his weaknesses and I know what they are and my strengths will cause problems for his weaknesses.”
He added: “I know what I can do. I’ve been at this since the age of five or six and I have believed in myself since then. This is good news nd it’s a lift not just for Dungiven, but for Derry too and the whole of the North. The fact I am doing it is a privilege. I’m ready for action.” Francie McNicholl said negotiations were “very tough”, but is delighted contracts have been signed. With the fight set to be televised in the US, attracting plenty of celebrities on the night, Mc Nicholl says this is “big big stuff and we want to bring the World Title belt back to Dungiven and Ireland”.
“Paul has the tools to beat Amir Khan. It’s just a case now of sharpenening them. The game is on,” he said.
McCloskey’s long time coach, Vinny Hargan from St. Canice’s ABC says Dungiven is buzzing with the news.
“People have been ringing me about tickets and I know at training that’ll be the only talk,” he said. “Paul is just as talented as Amir Khan. and you have to respect both boxers but, there is no doubt in my mind, Paul can do it. If he does what he does best and box, hopefully things will work out. Paul McCloskey has every attribute that a boxer should have and he has done everything he can and the next step is a World Title challenge. There can only be one winner and hopefully it will be Paul.”
Dungiven councillor Cathal O’hOisin believes all of Mitchell Park and 99 per cent of Dungiven will be in Manchester.
“Paul has been a super ambassador for the area and the sport. It’s brilliant for St. Canice’s ABC because a world title is one of the few titles that has eluded the club and it would be magnificent to have a world champion from such a club with a long and illustrious history. I am 100 per cent certain Paul can do it. He is at the peak of his career and there cannot be better timing for this challenge.”