Boxing: McGuigan tips 'Dudey' to pull off Khan upset
'KHAN' it be third time lucky for an Irish southpaw tonight or will Paul McCloskey's quest for a world title go the way of his fellow left-handers Willie Casey and Brian Magee and implode at the final hurdle?
Unbeaten Derry-born McCloskey, nicknamed 'Dudey', meets Amir Khan for his WBA light-welterweight crown at the MEN Arena in Manchester this evening.
The 12-rounder arrives just a few weeks after Casey lost his world title tilt to WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux in Dublin and Magee went down to IBF champion and Lucian Bute in Montreal.
Tonight's duel has been overshadowed by Sky Box Office's decision not to show the fight, a move which has seen Khan admonish the British broadcaster for their lack of support.
The clash -- a voluntary defence for the British 2004 Olympian, who is defending his crown for a fourth time -- will now be broadcasted live on the minor pay-per-view Primetime. Sky's decision is understood to have seen Khan's purse plummet from £1.2m to just over £250,000. McCloskey's cut is believed to be in the region of £150,000.
The Dungiven man's camp say their fighter is "blissfully unaware" of the TV shenanigans, that he's fine-tuned, in the zone and focused, while Khan expects thousands of McCloskey's fans to descend on Manchester.
"When the Irish come, they come in numbers, and the support he has is going to be massive. I really think it's going to be an electrifying crowd and that's only going to motivate me and push me," said the Bolton puncher.
Meanwhile, one Irish bookie has the 2004 Olympic silver medalist at 1/12 to retain his belt, with McCloskey, a three-time Irish Elite champion and the current European champion, out at 6/1.
However, Barry McGuigan, whose waist was once adorned with a WBA strap, reckons that the 31-year-old Ulsterman can cause an upset.
"The problems with the TV coverage will not have helped Khan. Those problems haven't gone unnoticed in the boxing community and they will have had little or no effect on McCloskey's preparations," said the Clones Cyclone.
"It's fair to say that Khan is improving all the time and this will be a big test for McCloskey against the defending champion, but Khan has had problems with southpaws in the past and McCloskey will be aware of this.
"McCloskey is a very intelligent boxer, a skilful, experienced boxer. He has an awkward style and he makes it very difficult for his opponents to land clean shots on him.
"But you can't teach an old dog new tricks and he likes to keep his hands low. If I was him I would keep my hands high and a keep a tight defence in the earlier rounds. Khan is a fast starter and he'll try to blow him away.
"If McCloskey avoids too much collateral damage in the early rounds and takes it down into the later rounds then he will be right in there with a chance."
Irish head coach Billy Walsh also believes that McCloskey can do it -- and the Manchester-born former Irish Olympian and Elite champion is in a unique position to comment.
The former Wexford minor hurler was coach to McCloskey -- one of the first members of the IABA's highly successful High Performance Unit along with Andy Lee and Ken Egan -- in the amateur ranks.
Because Ireland and Britain only qualified two boxers -- Lee and Khan -- for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where Khan won silver, both nations were only allowed one coach.
Walsh, as well as working Lee's corner, did his bit for Anglo-Irish relations and worked Khan's corner along with GB coach Terry Edwards, who helped out with Lee.
"Amir is obviously a top-class boxer, but I think he'll have his work cut out against Paul. Paul is a very skilful, tough southpaw. He has a very unique style and it is very hard to figure him out. He'll ask questions of Amir," said Walsh.
Ireland's Andy Murray and Dubliner Jamie 'The Nuisance' Kavanagh, a silver medal winner at the 2008 AIBA World Youths in Mexico, will feature on tonight's undercard.
Unbeaten Cavan lightweight Murray, unbowed in 23, meets Blackburn's Graeme Higginson, just two wins away from equaling the longest Irish undefeated run in the pro ranks, set by Belfast's John Caldwell.
Caldwell, who won bronze for Ireland at the 1956 Olympics and a World pro title 1961, lost for the first time against Brazilian Eder Jofre in his 26th outing in Sao Paulo in 1962.
Amir Khan v Paul McCloskey,
Live, Primetime pay-per-view, from 8.0