McCloskey and Prizefighter Report
Paul McCloskey’s world title dreams lie in tatters after the Dungiven boxer was dramatically stopped in the 10th round by wily veteran DeMarcus Corley at the King’s Hall, Belfast. Pre-fight talk of a shot at the WBC light-welterweight title, or even a possible July date against ring legend Juan Manuel Marquez, will now slip away as Paul returns to the drawing board to consider his next move and try to work out exactly what went wrong.
It had all started off reasonably positively for the former European title holder, who held centre ring and pot-shotted effectively to edge the opening round, as Corley stalked with a menacing air. McCloskey’s troubles began in round two when his nose started bleeding profusely and as the jaws opened wider to try and suck in valuable air, Corley mouthed “I’ve broken your nose” to the hometown hero who bravely tried to shrug it off. The same injury had occurred in Paul’s gutsy win over Breidis Prescott last September but this time he was ultimately unable to drag himself over the line.
McCloskey (10st 0lb 1oz) was wobbled by the right hook in round five and too often left his head hanging in range for extended periods; a mistake that the ultra-slick southpaw rarely makes. He was, however, enjoying plenty of success to the body from the sixth round onwards and Corley (9st 12lb 2oz) later questioned why Paul had not targeted that area sooner. The nervous crowd rallied at every opportunity, trying to inject life into their man and it seemed that McCloskey had indeed boxed himself back into the contest when the fateful 10th round arrived. A sneaky low blow and a right hook shook Paul, who flexed his hips and stared straight back at Corley. McCloskey was just ‘playing possum’ as the visitor from Washington DC described post-fight. Moments later another right hook rocked Paul’s head back, the legs wobbled in conflicting directions and referee Ian John-Lewis jumped in between them. It appeared that Lewis had not firmly made up his mind about the stoppage but once the action was broken, the third man was unable to turn back and duly called it off at a time of 2-28.
“I can’t say what went wrong because it’s a bit too soon to try and figure out what the problem was,” admitted a clearly disappointed McCloskey, who was ahead by scores of one, two and four points on the judges’ official cards.
“I was pretty flat even though I felt great before the fight, my training went well and I have to give plenty of credit to Corley because he’s a quality fighter. It was a last chance saloon for him and he caught me with a good shot. I felt that I could’ve fought on but every fighter thinks he can fight on and I may not have been able to. I’m gutted because this is a massive setback for me.”
Corley, meanwhile, was respectful in victory and suggested that the end may have been called prematurely.
“I don’t think that the ref should have stopped it but when I saw that Paul wanted to fight some more then I wanted to go and get him,” said ‘Chop Chop’, who had been written off as a globe-trotting journeyman after losing six of his last seven fights.
“My game plan was to come over here and win by knockout because I have been in so many fighters’ back yards and not got the decision that it hurts and makes a fighter angry.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn did not complain about the stoppage and plans to return to Belfast in September, with a big fight for Carl Frampton still on the agenda. Eddie suggested that Paul McCloskey would have to re-build back at European title level if the 32-year-old could motivate himself to do so.
Eamonn O’Kane is the new Prizefighter middleweight champion and the 30-year-old could now find himself moving towards a major title shot after scooping the coveted trophy along with a cheque for £32,000. O’Kane successfully negotiated his way through three rough-and-tumble contests in the all-Ireland eight-man competition. Eamonn outpointed wiry Mullingar southpaw JJ McDonagh by scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 29-27 in a scrappy final contest, which took place prior to the McCloskey-Corley headline attraction.
“To be champion of such a volatile competition is brilliant,” said the newly crowned Prizefighter king. “Paul McCloskey is a hero of mine and I’m gutted for him so it definitely takes the shine off the night after my win. I was ecstatic after each fight, on a high and I was the favourite but how can you make anyone a favourite in a tournament like this? So many things can happen. I’m delighted though and I’ll leave it to Eddie Hearn to work out my next move.”
To his credit McDonagh (11st 6lb 12oz) enjoyed sporadic success in the final and looked decent when using the lead right jab and overhand left, but the bout was marred by holding and both men suffered low blows, with JJ having a point deducted in the final round. Terry O’Connor took charge.
O’Kane (11st 6lb 12oz) had set a frightening pace throughout the tournament and enjoyed a one round knockout victory in his semi-final over Lurgan’s Ryan Greene in a battle of unbeatens. When a clash of heads buzzed Greene (11st 4lb) early on he was left visibly shaken and sporting a nasty cut over the left eye. Clearly aggrieved and angrily patrolling his corner, Ryan bulldozed in seeking retribution. Eamonn took a step to the side and landed a peach of a right hand to remove Greene from his senses at 2-22. Ian John-Lewis refereed.
JJ McDonagh had plotted his own path to the final via a points win over much-improved Ballymena man Joe Rea. Rea (11st 7lb 10oz) brought a sizeable following to the King’s Hall and switched and moved but was unable to pin down McDonagh, who used his smarter boxing to secure a unanimous verdict at 30-27 (twice) and 29-28, with Howard Foster taking control.
The first Prizefighter to take place anywhere in Ireland had started with a ferocious quarter-final battle between O’Kane and Dubliner Anthony Fitzgerald. It was bar room brawl stuff as both men laid it all on the line with plenty of missed punches flying off into the night sky. Referee Ian John-Lewis called a clash of heads in round two when Anthony suffered a cut to the scalp. O’Kane was overall slightly more accurate than Fitzgerald (11st 7lb 4oz) and got his campaign off the ground with a split decision win after three wild rounds.
JJ McDonagh started his evening with an efficient points win over Roscommon’s Darren Cruise. The 26-year-old dropped brittle Cruise (11st 6lb 8oz) in the first round with a right hook to the head and was able to keep his increasingly desperate opponent at a comfortable range for the remainder of the bout. The scores were 30-26 (twice) and 29-27 with Terry O’Connor officiating.
Joe Rea successfully negotiated a way through his quarter-final with a points verdict over Galway’s Simon O’Donnell. All three scores came in at 29-28 in Rea’s favour as O’Donnell (11st 6lb 14oz), cited by some as a potential dark horse, failed to gather any momentum. Joe landed all of the telling blows and Mark Green refereed.
Ryan Greene had earlier booked his semi-final place by outmaneuvering a clearly unmotivated Ciaran Healy over the three round distance. Ciaran (11st 7lb 6oz) had replaced Mark Heffron when the Oldham youngster withdrew through injury, but the veteran is now set for an end of year retirement. Ref Howard Foster had to deal with plenty of clinching and Greene won by scores of 29-28 (twice) and 30-27.
The unused substitutes were Belfast novice Paul Moffett and Lurgan’s former Irish welterweight champion Stephen Haughian.
Earlier on in the evening, former British featherweight champion Martin Lindsay returned to the same venue where he lost that very title, to pound Mickey Coveney to defeat in the fourth round of a scheduled six. Coveney (9st 4lb 6oz) is a tough yardstick and current Irish super-featherweight champion but Lindsay’s (9st 5lb 2oz) extra quality punches forced a stoppage at 1-13 of the round and the Immaculata man’s comeback remains firmly on track. Howard Foster refereed.