The mind games started yesterday and Paul McCloskey saw the assaults coming from Breidis Prescott a lot clearer than Amir Khan did four years ago.
At the Hilton Hotel, Colombian Prescott — the only man to have defeated Khan — was making it clear that he wanted a war tomorrow night when the two top ten World light-welterweights clash at the Odyssey Arena.
Whether or not Prescott carries the same power at light-welter as he did when blowing away Khan at lightweight is open to debate but the consensus of opinion seems to be that if he is to end McCloskey’s world title ambitions then it must be inside the distance.
So, maybe we should not have been surprised to hear Prescott throwing out the bait for a tear-up. Prescott said: “I will be ready for one, two or 12 rounds but I don’t think it will go past six rounds.
“I’m very excited about the fight, I’m very well prepared, been working for eight weeks, and after this fight I want Amir Khan.
“Hopefully Paul McCloskey comes to fight and doesn’t run around the ring.
“I have great confidence in my power and I hope he doesn’t turn it into a bicycle tournament like he’s Lance Armstrong because we are coming to fight and we hope that he is prepared to fight and give the Irish fans a real fight.
“If he stands and fights he’s going to get knocked out without a doubt.”
McCloskey’s natural style is hit and move and those tools have brought him to this stage. He has been drawn into a war before, when he went toe-to-toe with Italian Giuseppe Lauri in a European title fight but is adamant that he won’t be making the same mistake at the Odyssey.
McCloskey said: “I know the way he wants the fight to be but I can assure you that I’ll be making him miss and I’ll punish him.
“I’ll be putting on a show and I’ll do my thing the way I always do.
“Amir Khan got knocked out in 54 seconds by Breidis Prescott but without blowing his trumpet too much, because I don’t like the guy that much after our fight, but he has gone on to much better things and improved dramatically so the Khan I boxed and the Khan he knocked out are two different fighters.
“When I got stopped on a cut I was well in the fight and I believed that I was just getting started and Khan was breathing very heavily.
“Prescott was a massive puncher at lightweight but not a massive puncher at light-welterweight but I’m ready for whatever he brings to the ring on Saturday night.”
McCloskey also feels the vociferous support he receives from the Odyssey fans can play a key role in driving him to victory.
“In the past sometimes I would have said it doesn’t matter about the fans but when I fought Lauri I fought a silly fight that night but the fans got right behind me and I could feel the energy.
“I have massive support, they’re the best out there so I think it will be a big help.”
The man who will be keeping McCloskey’s mind on the game plan will be experienced coach John Breen and he dismissed any suggestion the Dungiven man’s head could be turned by the need to show any over-inflated machismo.
Breen said: “The way the Prescott team are talking, I think they’re just talking through their backsides.
“They’ve watched one fight of Paul McCloskey but Prescott is going to be facing a different one than the fighter who fought Amir Khan.
“I know Paul would have knocked Khan out in about the eighth round because Khan was slowing down very badly but we all know what happened.”
Victory is expected to lead to a World title shot and promoter Eddie Hearn laid it out pure and simple for both men
“This is an official World title eliminator. The person who loses this fight will be eliminated from the World title picture and the winner will go on to fight for a world title in their next fight, no doubt.,” said Hearn.
“We’re not sleeping and dreaming about Amir Khan, we just want Paul to be world champion.”