It has been nearly three years to the day that I had been fortunate enough to encounter Belfast boxing trainer John Breen in a pub in the Northern Irish capital.
Being a massive fan of the Manchester “Hitman” Ricky Hatton at that time, my mind was instantly drawn to one thing; the twelve round affair that Hatton engaged in with Breen’s charge, the then Commonwealth light-welterweight champion Eamonn “The Terminator” Magee.
Naturally the introduction of Mr Breen to the establishment and the eventual meeting between us lead to an inevitable discussion on this contest, one that I still admire and watch to this day. After the banter and general boxing chat had been dispensed with, we wished each other well before Breen imparted one final bold statement.
The statement concerned a promising prospect in his camp at the time; “Mark my words, he will be a world champion” stated Breen with reassuring certainty. That prospect was Paul “Dudey” McCloskey, the man who challenges fellow Brit and WBA light-Welterweight king Amir Khan on April 16th at Manchester’s MEN arena.
At the time of the prediction, McCloskey had amassed a considerable 14-0 slate and had yet came to face any truly noted opposition. Such statistics serve to add to the magnitude of Breen’s boast, as “Dudey” had yet to be tested even domestically. More wins followed the February 2008 victory over capable Mexican Manuel Garnica (who had previously outpointed former World champion Carlos Maussa) as McCloskey began to sweep aside his domestic adversaries.
Wins over English Light-Welterweight holder Nigel Wright and the seasoned former European champion Colin Lynes helped push the Belfast man towards his own shot at the European Crown. Daniel Rasilla was halted in nine rounds in front of McCloskey’s home crowd to bring that specific title to Northern Ireland.
His first defence came against well known Italian warhorse Giuseppe Lauri, a man who was bound to present stiff opposition, having previously been matched with two former World champions in Junior Witter and the aforementioned Ricky Hatton, as well as a number of well renowned operators.
As his CV would suggest, Lauri did indeed trouble McCloskey. Lauri was able to gain the advantage early and draw McCloskey out of his stylish comfort zone, forcing him to trade uncharacteristically. Following what seemed like a trail to a losing effort, McCloskey detonated a short right hand to the Italian’s chin to save his championship and his chances of mixing at World level.
Former British boss Barry Morrison was beaten to a seventh round stoppage to reaffirm McCloskey’s dominance and undefeated ledger, but Amir Khan will present an entirely different proposition, when he undoubtedly comes forth to win with his combination of dazzling speed, considerable power and a newly discovered attribute, a concrete chin, something that before the Maidana fight, did not seem to be an appropriate characteristic to attach to the seemingly fragile Boltonian.
April 16th may provide what many fans are expecting of it, an easy night of domestic action for the champion. However, should the unthinkable unfold and McCloskey can utilise his strengths to win, John Breen’s brave statement will come to fruition, and it will of course be as the title reads: A prophecy realised.
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