05 November 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
Patience is a virtue. After all, there must have been times when Paul McCloskey had second thoughts about the speed in which his career was moving. Yet today he is on the verge of breaking into boxings big time.
The Dungiven native turned professional in 2004 having narrowly missed out on a place in the Olympic Games. Few doubted that he had the skills to make an impact on the game, it was the opportunities that were lacking.
Scheduled to make his debut at the Ulster Hall on October 28 of that year, McCloskey was instead forced to mark time with an exhibition match against gymmate Stephen Haughian.
The debut against David Kehoe, under the Frank Warren banner, came in March the following year at the Kings Hall. A third round stoppage victory was the outcome. But despite impressing in early outings, McCloskey was not in action as much as was befitting a genuine prospect.
Things changed in 2007.
With the expansion of Irish promoter Brian Peters ambitions beyond the confines of Bernard Dunne, McCloskey was identified as a potential marquee name. More than that, according to boxing insiders he was the most naturally gifted boxer Ireland had produced in a very long time.
Regular fights were now happening. The standard of opponent was being stepped up and in March 2008, McCloskeys patience was rewarded with a bill topping clash with former WBC lightweight champion Cesar Bazan in Letterkenny. This was the litmus test both in terms of what McCloskey the boxer and the brand had to offer.
The fight was a sell out and McCloskey an impressive victor. A difficult nights work followed in July of that year, when appearing as chief support to Andy Lee in Limerick, McCloskey was forced to abandon his glittery, slippery style to dig deep and fight in the trenches against perennial British title contender Nigel Wright. Dig deep he did and despite sustaining a nasty eye injury, McCloskey had emerged unbeaten with a British title fight now within reach.
It wasnt to happen just yet. First he was to appear on the undercard of David Barnes British title defence against Colin Lynes.
But finally lady luck was on the Irishmans side. When Barnes withdrew at the 11th hour, the stage was set for Dudey to enter stage left and mesmerize former European champion Lynes in nine increasingly one sided rounds for the vacant Lonsdale strap.
The performance was enough to earn McCloskey recognition in the form of Boxer of the Year at January 2009s National Boxing Awards.
He was not on easy street just yet. Despite venues such as the Kings Hall having been scouted for a first defence, McCloskey was forced to travel to the unlikely setting of Widnes, as a result of TV demands, in order to dispatch the outgunned Dean Harrison in March 2009.
He was, by now, number one contender for the European title and with that strap vacant it was just a matter of time.
Initially due to fight Souleymane MBaye for the title in Paris in the summer, McCloskey withdrew through injury. The Frenchman went on to defeat Lynes for the title and then signed to fight McCloskey in Magherafelt. Early this week he withdrew and was stripped of the title. Spaniard Daniel Rasilla stepped in.
Whilst there are no certainties in boxing, it would appear that aged 30 and unbeaten in 19 contests, the ball is finally and firmly in Paul McCloskeys court.