17 April 2011

Just in-case you didn’t know, Amir Khan will defend his WBA light-welterweight title tonight against British and European tile holder Paul McCloskey at the MEN arena in Manchester.

With all the TV wranglings and fighters falling off the bill left right and centre over the last couple of months even the most hardent of boxing fans have found it hard to keep track of what has been going on.

At one point the whole show was in danger of being cancelled, when terms regarding TV rights and the pay-per-view broadcast fall-out of the event, which had originally been pencilled in to be shown live on there pay channel Sky Box Office.

But the apparent lack of PPV buys for the fight, forced Sky to switch the show to their free channel, SkySports 3. The move involved taking a big pay cut for both boxing camps, with Khan thought to have lost up to £1 million in the process.

After the fight promoters were unable to reach a deal with Sky, the broadcaster axed the event from their schedule altogether. Leaving Khan to hastily broker a deal with Primetime sports channel, with Khan’s advisers rejecting the chance to screen it on Sky Sports 3.
McCloskey-European champion – Khan WBA champion
If you were to read around some of the boxing forums you may think that Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) has taken an easy option in Paul McCloskey (22-0, 12 KOs) for the fourth defence of the belt, he claimed against Andriy Kotelnik in July 2009 – his last appearance at the MEN arena. It is far from that in reality and the unbeaten Irish challenger has so far in his career answered all the questions put to him and as in-fact earned this shot on merit.

Behind Khan 22, McCloskey is the next best domestic light-welterweight in the British Isles and holding the Lonsdale belt makes him the British fighter to beat at that weight, be it challengers who want HIS belt, or the world champion cleaning up all challengers at home, before conquering the world.

Khan’s future plans are already mapped out, a successful defence against McCloskey, then a unification fight with Timothy Bradley in the summer – and then, if he can become king of the light-welterweights, the target is Floyd Mayweather Jnr next year.

As much as the MEN arena in Manchester has been a good place to fight for Khan, it has also been a place of pain for the local Bolton champion. It was here that Khan was knocked out by Breidis Prescott, after 54 seconds of the first round in September 2008 and he will surely not be taking McCloskey lightly, knowing what under estimating a fighter can implecate and what prizes lie ahead for him if he retains the belt.

“I’m looking forward to this fight and am not letting anything distract me. said Khan.

“I’ve had an excellent camp with my trainer Freddie Roach and new conditioner Michael Vale. We did some great work in Los Angeles and the Philippines, and I know that McCloskey has been giving his all in training.

“Some people think this fight is going to be an easy one for me but they’re wrong. Every fight I go into I train like I’m the challenger and this time has been the same. McCloskey is hungry and after my world title, so I can’t look beyond him.

“There has been talk of a unification fight with Timothy Bradley in the summer, but I can’t think about anything like that because McCloskey is the man I need to get past. I feel strong and am just looking forward to getting in the ring now. The wait is the hardest part because I have done the hard work and am just eager to get into there and do the business on Saturday night.” added the champion.

But Equally in the mind of McCloskey this is his moment, his prize and opportunity to change his life and shock the world of boxing. He believes his southpaw style, skills, solid chin and engine will be his key to upsetting the odds and winning the championship of the world, and believes this can be his finest hour.

“Sure, Khan has fast hands and there’s no denying that, but I am an elusive fighter. What you can’t see you can’t hit,” he says.

“Everyone talks about Khan’s speed but I am pretty fast myself and, it’s been said, quite awkward, so a combination of the two will see me through.

“Khan doesn’t box as well of the back foot; he prefers to box in bursts, ducking in and out.

“I guess it’s a case of wait and see, but I intend to win, and both power and skill will be a factor.”

McCloskey 31, a professional for six years is a mature family man made of a tough Irish grit, a substance that cannot be taught or nurtured but what is entwined into his DNA from birth. But the challenger is equally unassuming and humble, by day the Dungiven man works in his family super market with his wife.

Ireland have took him to their hearts and have travelled to Manchester in there droves to support their hero who was a three-time Irish amateur champion before his professional success’s. 
Pic by Triangle Shopping Centre
Yesterday at the Triangle arena in the city centre of Mancunia the two combatants came face to face for the last time before they stare at each other from their corners of the ring, when they weighed in for the fight. Both hit the scales at 139lbs and looked in tremendous shape both mentally and physically and ready to go.

This is by far a harder fight for Khan than most think and could well give the champion a few scares, puzzles to solve and maybe the odd bite on the gumsheild to get through some dicey moments. Yes McCloskey is a capable operator and I believe will push Khan all the way.

But I believe Khan will once again go to the well and find the strength and will to come out of his scrapes as before, to stop a bruised and battered but brave courageous showing, maybe stopped on his feet or pulled out by his corner in the 11th, with Khan a bruised and battered winner. If the fight doesn’t prove to be the barnstormer I predict, then a points win for Khan must be the best bet. 

By Chris Maylett

All the weights from the Triangle Manchester big fight weigh in
  • WBA junior-welterweight title Amir Khan 139lbs vs. Paul McCloskey 139lbs
  • Welterweight Craig Watson 146lbs vs. Lee Purdy 146lbs.5oz
  • Lightweight Gary Buckland 133lbs vs. Oscar Chacin 133lbs
  • Middleweight Martin Murray 157lbs.5oz vs. John Carvalho 157lbs
  • Featherweight Rendall Munroe 121lbs.7oz vs. Andrei Isaeu 121lbs
  • catch weight Dezzie Higginson 135lbs vs. Andy Murray 136lbs
  • Junior welterweight Jamie Kavanagh 137lbs.5oz vs. Sid Razak 137lbs
  • Heavyweight Richard Towers 234lbs vs. Raman Sukhaterin 232lbs
The fight will be shown on Primetime from 8pm
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