Boxing: McCloskey closes in on world title tilt
Paul McCloskey raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes. He's moving on from Amir Khan — if everybody will just allow him to.
McCloskey headlines one of the best shows to come to Belfast for some time when on September 10 at the Odyssey Arena he clashes with Amir Khan’s conqueror Breidis Prescott in a WBA world title eliminator, while unbeaten prospect Carl Frampton is expected to clash with Spain's Kiko Martinez for the European super-bantamweight title.
“I expect to get the Frampton-Martinez fight done very shortly,” said promoter Eddie Hearn, son of Matchroom Promotions chief Barry.
McCloskey (31), was left devastated back in April when his World light-welterweight title clash with Khan was halted in favour of the champion due to a minor cut and it took some time for him to get over it. But now he is only focused on a route back to a world title opportunity.
Khan's name was never far away from the lips of many at yesterday's press conference at the Odyssey and Colombian Prescott naturally maintains the link as he clubbed the Bolton superstar into submission in 54 seconds in 2008. Now McCloskey must face up to his firepower if he is to have any chance of a re-match, even though he seems resigned to the fact that it is now very much a long shot.
“I'm a bit fed up talking about Khan ... the re-match could happen but it won't happen in my next fight or the fight after that.
“Khan's talking about going up to welterweight and looking to unify the titles and fighting Floyd Mayweather, all that craic. So I might never get to fight him because if he's talking about fighting those boys then he's going to get beat very soon.
“For me it's about fighting for the world title, it's about getting that world title.”
Those thoughts were echoed by promoter Eddie Hearn who believes Prescott can not only bring out the best in McCloskey but make the world governing bodies sit up and take notice again of his world title fight credentials.
Hearn said: “When Paul beats Prescott then his next fight without a doubt will be for a world title, whether that it is the WBA or against one of the other champions.
“Khan is fighting Zab Judah this weekend to win the WBA super title, which will leave the WBA title vacant and Marcos Maidana will box for that. This fight for Paul is not an eliminator for Amir Khan, it's an eliminator for a world title shot.
“We can't spend our life trying to chase Amir Khan. We don't go to bed every night thinking 'please can I fight Amir Khan', we go to bed thinking 'please let be world champion'.
“We'll always talk about the Amir Khan fight, but we have to beyond that and fighting Breidis Prescott is an ideal opponent because he knocked Khan spark out. And when we beat Prescott then we can call out Khan from the rooftops.
“It doesn't mean that it will happen but maybe it will show Khan that Sky is backing Paul and he's got 10,000 people behind him in the Odyssey and he might then lick his lips for a re-match.”
Hearn also admitted that he was hoping for IBF champion Judah to cause an upset as that would pave the way for a clash with McCloskey. He added: “If Judah wins then it is a fight that we can make, my dad has always had a very good relationship with his promoter Kathy Duva. We can make it a lot easier than the Khan fight so of course we want Judah to win.”
As for southpaw McCloskey, he knows that hard-hitting Prescott is a genuine threat to any future world title ambitions.
McCloskey said: “He's a dangerous fighter, a hungry fighter who can really bang.
“I could go for easier fights but I want to get straight back in there and fight at world level because that is where I belong.
“I know that I can win the world title and I don’t care if I have to fight King Kong.
“Over in Manchester when I fought Khan I didn't feel like an away fighter because of the support that I had and I know that in this fight the support I have will be a huge factor.
“The support I had was unreal and it's going to be even better in the Odyssey.
“It’s great to be fighting back at home and I have to thank Matchroom for bringing the fight here. They have done a great job.
“Now it’s up to me to get myself in great shape for what I know is going to be a very tough fight”
The show will also feature former Commonwealth heavyweight champion Martin Rogan and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Eamonn O’Kane, who will be having his third outing as a professional on the back of two impressive wins.
Tickets are priced from £30.