9 March 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
Paul McCloskey makes the first defence of his British light-welterweight crown against Dean Harrison in Widnes on Friday 13 knowing he could be just one fight away from a shot at the European title.
The unbeaten Dungiven stylist, who in January was named Irish Boxer of the Year had been due to face Barry Morrison, but with the Scotsman pulling out of the Sky Sports televised bout due to injury, opportunity came knocking for 25-year-old Englishman Dean Harrison (14-1,4KO).
A former sparring partner of Harrisons. McCloskey knows his opponent inside out and speaking to irish-boxing.com he said that he was confident of extending his unbeaten record.
It was about, and I couldnt say exactly, but in the last 12-18 months (that we sparred), he said after a gruelling round-robin session of sparring with Andrew Murray and Michael Kelly.
I was comfortable in my sparring but he has had a few fights since and he has come on, and he has come up in the rankings. Obviously Barry Morrison pulled out, so they had to move to the next person and the next person was Dean Harrison. I know the young fella and he is a nice fella, but that will go out the window on Friday night. I have a job to do and I intend on doing it.
The bout was initially mooted for Belfasts Kings Hall, but owing to the fact that Sky will televise Amir Khans clash with Marco Antonio Barrera in nearby Manchester the following night, and McCloskey was asked to travel.
Im not upset, more disappointed because I had a lot of people talking to me about my next fight. Local people I would have got a lovely following after the last fight. But it doesnt matter to me whether it is in Belfast or Timbuktu as far as the boxing side of things go, but for people who live beside you and have known you your whole life.
Much has been made in recent months of what goes on behind closed doors in John Breens Belfast gym and McCloskey is quick to state that the level of sparring with the likes of Neil Sinclair, Andrew Murray, Stephen Haughian and Michael Kelly is second to none.
Ive done over 100 rounds of sparring. Ive trained really hard since Christmas so I am in great shape. It is different variety and quality sparring. Ive been in with all the other boys and now I have something different. Im learning from it and they are learning from it as well.
A European title fight on a homecoming bill would appear to be in order for a man who in the past 12 months has defeated fromer WBC champion Cesar Bazan, fringe contender Nigel Wright and former EBU kingpin Colin Lynes. But although McCloskey acknowledges that this is a possibility he is not getting ahead of himself.
Its definitely on my radar, but its not in my thoughts at the minute. Ive trained really hard. I am defending by British title and that is a job I intend on doing. Whether that is Barry Morrison, Dean Harrison, Junior Witter or whoever Im going in to do a job. So Im looking forward to it.