Out Of The Shadows

01 April 2008 – by Mark Doyle

Money makes the boxing world go around but hype is certainly pretty important, too.

There is nothing more exciting than the emergence or, indeed, re-emergence of a boxer with a seemingly special talent.

Of course, experienced fight fans know better than to instantly believe a promoter or a trainer when he claims to be in possession of the next big thing, a future a world champion.

But even the most sceptical of supporters gets caught up in the hype machine, either to join in on the chorus approval or be the dissenting voice in the crowd.

So, while the respective recent outings of Matthew Macklin and Paul McCloskey cannot yet be rated as conclusive evidence of world title-winning potential, they can be used for grounds for optimism among the Irish boxing community.

And, crucially, the pairs victories over seasoned, grizzled Mexican fighters could not have come at a better time.

Indeed, Macklins impressive points win over Luis Ramon Campas came less than 24 hours after Andy Lees shock seventh-round stoppage at the hands of Brian Vera.

Macklin has yet to be truly embraced by the Irish public, perhaps because he has a thick Birmingham accent, but it has more to do with the fact that he has not benefited from the same levels of hype surrounding his middleweight rivals Lee and John Duddy.

That may have changed on March 22. True, the bout with Campas may not have been a sell-out but one would imagine that his next outing will be because the Irish middleweight champion boxed beautifully against they man they called Yori Boy.

Yori Boys best days are no doubt long gone (but what days they were, Campas having shared a ring with Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas during his long and illustrious career) but one could not help but be impressed by the disciplined and controlled nature of Macklins performance.

This was a test of his intelligence and it was one he passed with flying colours. Gone was the reckless endeavour he showed in his spectacular dust-up with Jamie Moore and while Macklin himself deserves much credit for this, the role of Buddy McGirt cannot be overstated.

The former two-weight world champion acted as a calming influence throughout and reeled Macklin in every time Campas tried to tempt him into a war.

The sheer presence of McGirt in Macklins corner is a huge endorsement of his talents and he must have been impressed by what he saw in what, lest we forget, was their first fight together. Macklin has been in the pro game for a long time but he is still only 25 and proved against Campas that he is still capable of learning. Consequently, it is impossible not get excited by the thought of just how much better Macklin could get under McGirts tutelage.

Meanwhile, McCloskeys potential was being discussed in excited fashion by those lucky enough to have been present at the Letterkenny Leisure Complex on the last Saturday of March.

Again, there were a few empty seats dotted around the arena but McCloskey treated the crowd to a sublime display of boxing in his win over another former world champion from Mexico, Cesar Bazan.

McCloskeys movement and speed were a joy to behold and would have made the watching national TV audience, many of whom would have been unfamiliar with the Dungiven light-welterweight, sit up and take notice.

McCloskeys skills had Dave McCauley positively purring in the post-fight press conference, with the former flyweight world champion arguing that the Derryman had established himself as a world-class talent, a man that every right-minded title-holder will now be doing the utmost to avoid.

That might have been a tad over the top but it would not be overstating the case to say that McCloskey is not an attractive opponent for many fighters.

He is as slick a fighter as there is currently operating in Europe. He has blisteringly quick hands, incredibly accurate and dances about the ring with both grace and menace.

He keeps his hands low, relying on his remarkable elasticity to move away punches. McCloskeys style is a conundrum that few are going to work out. Certainly, Bazan, a world-class operator, never looked remotely capable of finding some answers and was made to look a very ordinary fighter which he is most definitely not, even at this stage in his career.

Of course, it would be foolish to read too much into wins over ageing Mexican warriors but both Macklin and McCloskey moved up a level last month.

Both were charged with the daunting task of headlining a fight night for the first time and both delivered the kind of performances that that responsibility demanded.

Neither man froze, neither man struggled under the weight of expectancy and that bodes well for the future. They were given some time in the spotlight and they thrived.

The fragility of the Irish boxing industry has been ruthlessly exposed over the past nine months, with Bernard Dunne, John Duddy and Andy Lee all suffering significant setbacks but it seems that both Macklin and McCloskey were paying attention.

These young men are by no means the finished article but that is what is so encouraging: there is definitely more to come.

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