Belfast Telegraph

McCloskey wants to party

By David Kelly

When you headline at the King's Hall it's not just about winning but how you win.

Paul McCloskey has to know that as he prepares to make the first defence of his European light-welterweight title against Giuseppe Lauri. There is simply no better stage to truly see your career take off.

Indeed, there is a small parallel with Barry McGuigan's career as the Clones Cyclone was taken to the iconic venue when challenging for the European featherweight title 27 years ago and coincidentally he happened to be facing an Italian, Valerio Nati. McGuigan ripped through Nati and while McCloskey has a very different style, an inside the distance victory is just what he needs at this stage of his career.

While he is unbeaten and has the skills to mix it at the highest level, the route to a world title opportunity will be a lot smoother if he can put more bums on seats and catch the imagination of television – ie, Sky.

Lauri brings experience, a cockiness to the ring as well as a reputation for knowing how to upset a fighter. He could make it messy, very messy and win or lose that's the last thing this confident Dungiven man needs.

“I've seen enough of him to know that likes to spoil, likes to get the referee involved when he's under pressure. It's up to me to make sure that he doesn't spoil,” said McCloskey, whose profile can be raised somewhat with a swashbuckling performance.

“I'm going to have a lot of angles for him, his head is going to be spinning. He's a tough campaigner, the mandatory challenger but this is my time.”

Lauri, who is based in Hungary with his Magyar wife, is adamant that despite failing on previous occasions against Junior Witter and Ted Bami he is ready to finally claim the EBU's 10st belt.

“Bami had an awkward style, now I’m more experienced and mentally more determined,” said Lauri. As for the Witter loss, a shrug of the shoulders allied with “he was a world champion” summed up that defeat.

There is no doubt in the past he has generally shown a resilience to suggest he could make life a little difficult for McCloskey in the early stages but you would have to expect that coach John Breen is right when he suggests that the Ulsterman will triumph with a good deal to spare.

“I would think that Paul should get the job done between six and nine rounds,” said Breen.

“Paul has been working very well in the gym, looking sharp and I can’t see how Lauri can hurt him. Paul has too much class and I think he will probably break the guy’s heart.”

The champion, who weighed in at 9st 13 8oz with Lauri scaling 9st 12 14oz, has no doubt that he will be moving on to a higher level after this evening’s action and the key to victory as so often with McCloskey will probably be his speed.

“You know there’s not a quicker light-welterweight than me and Lauri will find that out as well,” said McCloskey, who went nose to nose with Lauri at yesterday’s weigh-in.

Victory is surely his tonight but the bigger challenge is to grab the spotlight like an A list movie star.

McCloskey may just do that with an eighth round stoppage.

Belfast Telegraph

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