Paul McCloskey had to go where he didn’t want to on Saturday night and box the wrong fight to come out on top.
For someone who has built a career on being one of the smartest fighters around, McCloskey seemed to leave his boxing IQ in the dressing room as he went toe- to-toe with Nigel Wright.
He may have won 97-93 in Limerick’s University Arena but revealed that after three rounds in which he controlled the action with his smart boxing he had to box at close quarters after a clash of heads.
“I had double vision after the clash of heads which was accidental so I couldn’t box from range because I was missing and getting caught as well so I was forced to go in close,” said McCloskey, whose right eye was closing from the third onwards.
“It wasn’t my natural fight but I did it in order to win and I came out on top so I showed that I can box at long range and up close. He‘s a good fighter but I never thought I was in any trouble.”
Wright may have fought for the British and Commonwealth title and put up two good displays but he is far from exceptional and McCloskey was expected to beat him much more easily.
One factor the McCloskey camp will be pleased with is how his strength matched up against a seasoned campaigner and he will need that and more if he is to take the British light-welterweight title away from David Barnes.
Wright connected with more blows than the rest of the Ulsterman’s opponents put together but to his he never lost his grip on the fight.
Overall, it was a hard night’s work for McCloskey but he re
mains on course for Barnes or European champion Gianluca Branco.
McCloskey said: “I want a British or European title fight now. As far as I’m concerned anything else would be a step back for me.
“That was a tough fight for me but I think I showed that I box as well as fight up close and to be a champion you’ve got to be able to do everything.
"My strength has improved since I started the weights and some supplements and it showed in this fight. I know that I've been ready for some time for a title fight and I can't wait to get the chance."
Quite so and maybe it will turn out to be the ideal preparation for victory over Barnes or Branco.
On the supporting bill, Stephen Haughian had to climb off the floor in the first round to win on points over eight rounds against Italian Giuseppe Langella, 78-72.
Lurgan man Haughian was stunned by a left hook which had him on the canvas but he recovered very well to take control of the fight and his workrate gave him the edge in many of the rounds.
Coach John Breen said: “That’s the best opponent Stephen has been in with and after the shaky start I thought he did well to win quite convincingly but it also showed that he still has a lot to work on.”
Banbridge middleweight Jason McKay was more conclusive as he despatched Poland’s Marcin Piatkowski in the third round.
Piatkowski was down late in the second round from a right hand and when McKay maintained the pressure on the third he forced the referee to call a halt.