1st April 2011

WBA light-welterweight champion Amir Khan flies home to the UK on Sunday for the final two weeks of preparation ahead of his title defence against British and European champion Paul McCloskey on April 16th at the MEN Arena in Manchester.

Khan’s Homecoming pic by Sean Keating

It will be his first fight in England since July 2009 – And Khan, 24, knows that there is no room for error against McCloskey with a summer unification bout against American WBC and WBO title-holder Timothy Bradley already on the cards.

“I’m glad to be coming home. I’ve had my last two fights in Las Vegas and New York and I know my fans have been dying to see me. There’s going to be a 20,000 full house and it’s going to be a great atmosphere. I can’t wait.” said Khan

The champion is desperate to prove he is the ‘King’ of his weight division and believes that his Irish challenger is not in his class, but also knows that underestimating the 31 year old, undefeated Belfast man would be done so at his peril.

“I’m not underestimating McCloskey (right) but he’s not in my class. I’m a world-class fighter,” said Khan, who returns to the ring following his 2010 fight of the year over tough Argentine Marcos Maidana in December.


“He’s no push over and you know about the Irish they come to fight. But I think I’ve got the tools to beat him and the speed and power to take him out.” he added.

Khan will land at Manchester Airport this weekend from the Philippines where he has been in camp with pound for pound champion Manny Pacquiao. The ‘Pacman’ is in training for his fight against ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley and Khan has been sparring with the ring legend to prepare for McCloskey.

There would seem to be no better way of preparing for a fight against a southpaw, than to spar with the very best, numero uno southpaw in the world and it’s believed that Khan is in the best condition he has ever been.

But McCloskey, who is undefeated in 22-fights and is confident of causing an upset, insists there is no comparison between himself and Pacquiao – despite the fact they are both southpaws.

“I’m completely different to Pacquiao. Manny’s an aggressive, come-forward fighter who punches in bunches,” McCloskey told Sky Sports. “I’m a slick mover, a thinker and I think my skills will cause him a lot of problems.”


Meanwhile the MEN Arena big fight undercard has been dealt numerous blows over the last couple of days with boxers withdrawing from proposed bouts. Firstly European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin withdrew from his WBA final eliminator fight with Khoren Gevor – It is believed Macklin is very close to getting a direct crack at WBA champ Felix Sturm or IBF ruler Sebastian Sylvester.

British lightweight champion Anthony Crolla’s title defence against Gavin Rees was cancelled earlier in the week, after a long standing nose injury for Rees saw him withdraw. A late replacement in Nigel Wright was proposed for Crolla, but that fight now doesn’t look to happening for the newly crowned champion. – After ripping the Lonsdale belt from John Watson in Liverpool a first defence in front of his Manchester fans, would have been a fitting home coming for Crolla, who’s presence on the undercard had sold many tickets.

Another local quality fighter Scott Quigg was going to get a big stage to showcase his high potential to a wider audience and show them what the people of Greater Manchester have known for a while, when he was scedualed to face Andrei Asaeu in defence of his WBA inter-continental super bantamweight title. But after suffering an hand injury in training he has now also dropped off the card. Unbeaten prospect Adam Etches has also pulled out of his fight.

Hatton Promotions who are working in partnership with Khan and Golden Boy promotions to stage this show, and will now be looking to save a potential blockbuster night of quality fights from becoming an anti climax.


Former European super-bantamweight champion Rendall Munroe who recently left promoter Frank Maloney to sign a contract with Hatton Promotions, will now be added to the undercard in his comeback fight since his world title challenge defeat to WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka in Japan last October.

Contrary to internet rumours, Munroe will not be fighting former WBC bantamweight world champion Wayne ‘Pocket Rocket’ McCullough. Apparently it was just an April fools joke that was spread around and an opponent is yet to be named for Munroe.

There were talks of Manchester’s unbeaten super bantamweight prospect Terry Flanagan facing Munroe and I’m told that Flanagan was really up for taking on the Leicester champion. But due to a training injury couldn’t take the fight, so has yet Munroe is without an opponent.

Wayne McCullough

Going back to McCullough’s April fools day joke – The Irishman was a terrific fighter in his day, this man was as tough as old boots, Ive never seen anyone be hit as hard and often without going down, while coming back for more. He was a true ring warrior and realised his dreams when he won the WBC bantamweight title. And apparently McCullough says he would gladly have taken the fight even at such short notice! but there is no truth in the rumours. A true boxers, boxer is the Pocket Rocket and that’s no April fools joke!

Lets hope that the promoters then can refill the MEN undercard with some quality fights and fighters to keep the fans happy and accompany a main event that promises to be an interesting clash of styles and battle of wits while it lasts.
But I expect Khan to start to work out McCloskey’s attacks midway through the fight and his fast punches start to get through to hurt the awkward southpaw challenger with more reguality – And after a long sustained beating, McCloskey is pulled out of the contest in the late rounds after a brave but unsuccessful challenge.
By Chris Maylett
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