McCloskey rocket floors Lauri at King's Hall
With stitches in his right eye, a wicked swelling and a bruised head Paul McCloskey reflected on a world class knockout but a performance that left him as bemused as anyone else.
Once a pure stylist, McCloskey morphed into a street fighter at the King’s Hall last night and it didn’t suit him.
Yes, he retained his European light-welterweight title with a spectacular, poison-tipped right hook which poleaxed Giuseppe Lauri after 35 seconds of the 11th round but up to that point the was shipping punches with shocking regularity.
The usual electric footwork and elasticated reflexes were not evident, nor was his clever use of the ring. Instead of hit and not be hit, it was give and take and let the toughest survive.
That doesn’t make good boxing sense when you’re seeking to move into world class and it almost cost him his EBU belt as the scores on the cards at the time of the stoppage were 97-92, 96-93, 96-94 and French referee Robin Dolpierre had already taken a point away for use of the head after almost a dozen warnings.
Frankly, it should never have been so dangerous for McCloskey but Lauri — down early on but unhurt — seemed to have got under his skin and he decided to go toe-to-toe from the opening bell, much to the chagrin of coach John Breen.
While the judging seemed too favourable for the gritty Italian, his confidence was high when suddenly the lights went out. “It’s probably the best punch I’ve ever thrown,” smiled McCloskey, who shrugged off Lauri’s suggestion that he was looking to touch gloves at the time he unloaded his rocket.
“I’m in there to box, I’m not there to shake hands, hug or kiss. As the referee says, protect yourselves at all times. I feinted beautifully and caught him perfect.
“But I know that was only about 50 per cent of me in there tonight. I don’t know what it was, I allowed him to drag me into the fight he wanted. I had blurred vision and I was a bit worried but even more worried that the referee was going to deduct more points.
“I have to give him credit for that and I respect him more as a fighter now than I did before the fight.
“The atmosphere was great and even though I boxed badly, I’m still European champion.”
Interestingly, talk of a world title fight was being placed on the backburner and another one or two European defences would seem to be next before setting his sights on the likes of WBC champion Devon Alexander, WBA champion Amir Khan or WBO kingpin Timothy Bradley.
Meanwhile, a bloody and bruised Stephen Haughian failed to land the Celtic welterweight title at the King’s Hall last night, losing a unanimous points decision to Scotland’s Kevin McIntyre.
There was little between the two after six rounds but gradually former British champion McIntyre got a grip of the contest, helped by a nasty cut around the Lurgan man’s left eye sustained in the fourth. All three judges voted for McIntyre, 98-93, 97-93 and 97-94.
Haughian had turned down the offer of a British title shot before this clash but his hopes of bidding for the Lonsdale belt in the near future would now seemed to have faded dramatically.