Paul McCloskey’s fanatical support breathed support breathed life into the spectacular MEN arena as almost 5,000 members of the Dudey army neutralised Amir Khan’s home advantage in the build-up to the biggest fight in the Dungiven man’s career.
It was an Irish invasion and they produced a white hot atmosphere in the largest indoor arena in Europe as the cream of the crop in world boxing assembled in anticipation of the main event. Legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer, 2010 trainer of the year Freddie Roach, golden boy Oscar De La Hoya, and former world light welterweight champion of the world Ricky Hatton were among the throng of celebrities in attendance.
The tension and excitement were palpable, and the presence of almost 300 of the world’s media added to the significance to the occasion. The fight was being broadcast by American network HBO and live by UK pay-per-view channel Primetime. For McCloskey, this was a hard-earned chance to impress on the ultimate platform and to launch himself into the global consciousness of the boxing world.
But if the fight gave the Dungiven man the opportunity to prove to silence the doubters, they included some of the most knowledgeable commentators on the fight scene. The media lodged themselves unequivocally behind the world champion Khan, experienced at this level for the last two years, leaving the prohibitive underdog unburdened by expectation.
The prevailing view in the boxing fraternity was that Khan would easily despatch the European champion on the way to securing total domination of the ten stone division. For Khan, this was to be a triumphant homecoming - his first fight on English soil since 2009 and possibly his last for some time, with his handlers firmly focused on the US big time.
So the pressure was off but as the big fight got closer the question remained - how would McCloskey react in front of the biggest crowd and on the biggest occasion of his career?
One thing was for certain - all the doom-laden predictions in the media weren’t registering for McCloskey’s band of brothers (and sisters) in Manchester, raising the roof at the city centre venue.