9 June 2010 – By Cormac Campbell
On October 28, 2004 Belfast boxer Kevin OHara topped the bill at the Ulster Hall with a 79-74 points victory over Frenchman Jean Marie Codet.
The victory was straightforward, but there were elements of the bill that were somewhat exceptional.
Not only was there a heavyweight by the name of Martin Rogan making his debut that night (a first round stoppage of Lee Mountford), but there were two light-welterweight prospects scheduled to make their debuts on the Halloween Fright Night card.
Their participation on the evening went largely unreported. After all, rather than make their professional debuts as was planned, Paul McCloskey and Stephen Haughian squared off against one another in an exhibition bout.
That could be a bit of a quiz question in a few years when did you first make your debut? McCloskey told irish-boxing.com.
Most people think it was in the Kings Hall (in March 2005) but it could be said it was in the Ulster Hall, unofficially at least.
As it was, both men made their official and unofficial debuts together. With Haughian defeating James Gorman and McCloskey besting David Kehoe in the home of Irish professional boxing five months later.
Both men return to the Balmoral venue on Friday night, but rather than filling the mantle of bit part players, McCloskey and Haughians names are now the ones adorning the fight posters.
McCloskey, the European light-welterweight champion tops the bill when he makes the first defence of his crown against tricky Italian Guiseppe Lauri, whilst Haughian contests the Celtic welterweight crown with Kevin McIntyre in the chief supporting contest.
For both men there have been difficulties along the way. These have probably been more obvious in the case of Haughian, 18-1-1. The last time he fought at the Kings Hall in 2007 he lost to Italian Giammario Grassellini. The result was avenged the following year but it was clearly set back. In his last fight in 2009, the Lurgan native was dropped in a six rounder, meaning he had to settle for a draw. This time round he has worked harder on body and mind conditioning something he hopes will bring him within touching distance of a British title fight.
Its been a long road and I probably thought I would be further along by now, but that is boxing, said Haughian.
But they are using the Celtic title as an eliminator, so I intend on taking the opportunity. McIntyre is a southpaw, but I have the best southpaw in Europe as my sparring partner, so I will be well prepared.
The lefty in question is of course McCloskey, who whilst amassing a record of 20-0 suffered the indignity of being referred to as the worlds most over-protected prospect. A perception that came about more as a result of opponents unwillingness to square off with him rather than vice versa. Indeed, McCloskey proved he was willing to go into the lions den when he stepped in at late notice to outclass Colin Lynes for the British title in 2008.
It has been a long road, but now it appears destiny is in both mens hands.
We started together and we have a good friendship, McCloskey said.
He is a good fella and I think he is going to do a job himself. Me and Stephen have been together the whole way through the ranks. He is a few years younger than me but he is coming on well. He has had a few setbacks, like many fighters, but hopefully it will all come good. He has a tough fight against a southpaw, but he has been sparing me which would have helped him.