Sunday 26 March 2017

Boxing: McCloskey goads Khan amid world title talks

Thomas Myler

IT isn't often that an Irish boxer gets a world title fight opportunity.

But that could well happen for European light-welterweight champion Paul McCloskey, an impressive winner in 11 rounds against Italy's No 1 Giuseppe Lauri in Belfast last weekend.

It is understood that preliminary negotiations are to be opened shortly for the Derry southpaw, unbeaten in 21 pro fights, to meet either WBA champion Amir Khan, of the UK, or the organisation's interim holder, Argentina's Marcos Rene Maidana.

McCloskey's promoter, Brian Peters, has built up a strong working relationship with the WBA through Bernard Dunne, who was their champion for six months last year -- and while he was not available for comment yesterday, definite talks are due with the WBA.

If discussions break down, then a challenge to Khan would be feasible and, indeed, a better match, with the official belt at stake. This fight could also conveniently take place in England or Belfast, whereas Maidana would almost certainly want a US location.

Vulnerable

McCloskey is not fussy who could be in the opposite corner but he would prefer Khan. "I know I have the ability to beat Khan," he said yesterday. "Yes, maybe he has improved since he was sensationally knocked out by Breidis Prescott in 54 seconds, but I still think he is vulnerable.

"Just because he has won his last five fights, some people are now talking about him in the same breath as the great Manny Pacquiao ... There is no way whatsoever that he is even remotely near Manny's class."

Even though McCloskey won well last weekend, he is still not happy with his performance: "Lauri was not the easiest guy to fight and he drew me into a lot of close-quarter work. He said the finishing punch by me was a foul because he claims the referee called us to break. He is wrong about that."

Early this week, Lauri was quoted in an Italian newspaper saying he was winning at the time. But it has been revealed that all three judges had McCloskey ahead (97-92, 96-94, 96-93).

"Yes, I was heading for a points win as the scores indicated," said McCloskey. "But I was definitely not pleased with my showing. Still, as I say, I kept my title and my record. I still feel that the finishing punch was the best I have ever thrown in my 21 pro fights."

Meanwhile, Cuban light-heavyweight Luis Garcia is on the bill at the Neptune Stadium in Cork on Saturday week. His opponent is to be named this weekend. His countrymen, heavyweight Mike Perez and super-bantamweight Alexei Acosta are also on the card, as is Cavan's EU lightweight champion Andy Murray.

Irish Independent

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