06 November 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
Paul McCloskey became Derrys first European Champion in 30 years with a ninth-round stoppage of Spaniard Daniel Rasilla on Friday night.
A healthy crowd of 3,000 braved the icy cold of the Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt despite the lure of the concurrent Rogan v Sexton II card at the more luxurious Odyssey Arena in Belfast some 30 miles away. That the majority of those in attendance retained their coats and – indeed scarves – for the duration of the promotion tells its own story, but few will care to dwell on such minor inconveniences when McCloskeys achievement is considered.
Admittedly this was far from being McCloskeys finest performance, but in truth any hopes of looking good were made that little bit more difficult by Rasillas cagey, negative approach. Having come in at short notice for the injured Souleymane MBaye there was an expectation that Rasilla would come to the ring hoping to survive rather than to win and so it transpired as he circled the ring at a distance, refusing to engage for six of the contests nine rounds.
Despite this, McCloskey won the early rounds at a canter with hurtful lead lefts from his southpaw stance giving Rasilla a taste of the inevitable. That inevitable could have come much sooner had McCloskey elected to unload more right hands early on as Rasilla circled to his left.
Perhaps the turning point of the fight was in the fourth round when at one stage Rasillas tiring legs betrayed him, forcing to turn spin a complete 360 degrees. The Dungiven southpaw was ready to pounce, instinctively landing a full bodied left hook before the referee stepped in to break the pair.
From this point McCloskey upped the pressure and began to break up his opponent. In the fifth, Rasilla was send into the ropes by a left hand. A right then buckled his legs, with the bell buying some breathing space.
Rasilla did fight back. In the seventh he landed a clean right and in the eighth a strong one two which if delivered by a heavier puncher could have posed problems. After the contest McCloskey said that shipping such blows was embarrassing, a result of complacency and over eagerness.
Taking the shots did encourage to take his performance up a level. In the ninth he caught Rasilla with an enormous right that sent his opponent sprawling into one of the neutral corners. McCloskey then followed this up with a barrage of shots that sent Rasilla to the canvas for the count of nine. Perhaps the contest should have been stopped, but Rasilla was given the benefit of the doubt. Moments later McCloskey landed a hard left, which sent Rasilla heavily to the canvas. The fight was waved off without a count.
Cue wild celebrations.
There is little doubt that greater tests than Daniel Rasilla lie ahead and McCloskey freely admits that he must up his performance if he is to retain what he has worked so hard to achieve. A World Title chance is not inconceivable, but more than likely McCloskey will defend his title at the Kings Hall early in the New Year, further establishing his growing reputation and fanbase.
Stay tuned to irish-boxing.com this week for an exclusive interview with Paul McCloskey, as well as interviews with Barry McGuigan, Carl Frampton, Martin Lindsay and Andy Murray.