Paul McCloskey believes he is just “one or two fights” away from fighting for the World light-welterweight title.
The unbeaten Dungiven man makes the first defence of his European title at the King’s Hall on June 11 against Italian Giuseppe Lauri, with Lurgan’s Stephen Haughian meeting Scotland’s Kevin McIntyre for the Celtic welterweight title in the main supporting fight.
Slick mover McCloskey will start a red hot favourite against the experienced challenger as he seeks to progress towards a battle with one of the World champions — WBA title holder Amir Khan, WBC/IBF champion Devon Alexander or WBO king Timothy Bradley.
“I believe I’m ready to fight those guys right now,” said McCloskey at yesterday’s press conference in the Europa Hotel.
“But realistically I need one or two more fights, to sharpen myself up and to push further up the world rankings.
“I’m in there now in the top ten on merit so there’s no reason why I couldn’t box for a World title.”
McCloskey hasn’t boxed since winning the European title last November, mainly due to a back injury.
He added: “It’s good to be getting back in the ring because it has been a while since I won the title on what was a memorable night for me in Magherafelt.
“Lauri’s a tough opponent, you just have to look at his record to see that. But I’ve been five years in John's gym and the sparring has been tougher than the fights. I’m not bothered who I fight but he’s the mandatory challenger so I have to fight him. I just have to be in the best shape possible mentally and physcially.
“The King’s Hall is a great venue and I’m delighted to be topping the bill and I’d like to take the opportunity to pass on my condolences to the family of Billy ‘Spider’ Kelly.
“He was a great fighter and topped the King’s Hall and it’s special to be following in his footsteps and all the other great champions.”
Coach John Breen has no doubt McCloskey will, given the opportunity to, develop onto the world stage very quickly though he is not overlooking Lauri.
He added: “Lauri’s a world class fighter and he has only been beaten by world class fighters. He’s also fantastic at doing the dirt and then getting the other fighter checked by the referee so we have to watch that.”
Flyweight Jamie Conlan is on the bill and it seems there is a growing rivalry between him and fellow Belfast man Luke Wilton.
Breen added: “We wanted Jamie to fight Luke Wilton for the Irish title but they turned it down. They say Luke’s fighting for the British title but that could be next year so I think it’s just a way of getting out of it.
“I think it would be a great little fight between two Belfast men. I’m sure Jamie will be fighting for the British or Commonwealth title before the end of the year.”
Welterweight Haughian has a good test against McIntyre after a long absence from the ring.
“I’ve been working with Mike McGurn on my strength and conditioning and I can’t wait to get back in the ring. This is an ideal chance for me.”
Super-bantam Carl Frampton is also on the show along with Cuban Alexei Acosta.
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