European Champion Paul McCloskey has teamed up with old rival Colin Lynes as he steps up preparations for the first defence of his title on the Yanjing Beer Fight Night at the Kings Hall, Belfast on Friday, June 11th.
McCloskey headlines a big night of championship boxing at one of the sports legendary venues when he takes on mandatory challenger Giuseppe Lauri while the chief supporting bout will see Stephen Haughian taking on former British champ, Kevin McIntyre for the Celtic Welterweight title.
In preparation for the bout McCloskey has been clocking up the rounds isparring with former opponent Lynes at trainer John Breen's Gym in Belfast. The undefeated Dungiven southpaw relieved Lynes of his British title in 2008 and the Londoner has also enjoyed a stint as European Champion so he knows all about preparing for European title fights.
“Colin's a very sharp, snappy fighter so it's been excellent work so far,” said McCloskey. “The fact that we have fought before doesn't really come into it where sparring is concerned because it's very different to actually fighting.
"On fight night you're in there to win and that's you're sole objective where as in sparring you are more concerned with working on aspects of your own game and tweaking things here and there so it's a very different mentality.”
Lynes has also enjoyed his time in Belfast. “The sparring has been great so far and I think it's just what we both need,” said Lynes. “I've been sparring really well and Paul seems to getting better and better every day. He'll be looking to build towards a peak as the fight approaches because you don't want to leave you're best behind you in the gym and have nothing left come fight night.
“I think Paul is improving as a fighter the whole time. He's had a coupe of good wins since he beat me and winning the European title will have made him an even better fighter.
“Paul is good enough to beat Lauri wherever the fight takes place but they have done very well to get Paul home advantage and get the fight to the King's Hall because I know from first hand experience that it's very difficult to get a fair crack of the whip in Italy.”
McCloskey belies he has what it take to see off the challenge of Lauri despite the Italian's impressive record of 50 wins from his 56 professional bouts. “Lauri's a very solid fighter and has all the fundamentals,” said McCloskey.
“He's very experienced and he's quite crafty but I believe I'm a level above him. I've never lacked confidence and I honestly believe I can go as far as I want to go in boxing. As long as I prepare right and put in the hard work then I have every confidence in my ability. My weights exactly where I would want it to be right now and I 'm very happy with my fitness so everything is going to plan right now.”
By the end of the year McCloskey hopes to be on the cusp of a World title shot but for now he's refusing to look past the challenge of Lauri. “I'm just focused on getting this defence out of the way first, everything else is just talk and speculation after that. Ideally I'd like to defend the European title again before moving on to World level but if a World title opportunity comes my way in the meantime and it makes sense then I won't need to be asked twice.
“Light Welterweight is probably the most completive division in World boxing right now with guys like Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander and Marcos Maidana but I don't fear any of those guys and I'd relish the opportunity of fighting any of them.”
The Yanjing Beer Fight Night will also feature a second title fight on the card when Lurgan's Stephen Haughian takes on former British Champ Kevin McIntyre for the Celtic Welterweight title. Cavan's Andy Murray also features as the undefeated European number 3 looks to take another step close to a European title fight with namesake, John Murray.
Rising Belfast star Carl Frampton will get a chance to fight in his hometown for the first time as a pro. The Barry McGuigan managed super bantamweight is unbeaten in his first 5 professional outings and tipped for for big things in the paid ranks.
Another exciting new Belfast talent out to extend his unbeaten record at the King's Hall will be flyweight Jamie Conlan while Cuban sensation Alexei Acosta will also feature as he looks to continue a incredible knockout streak that has seen him stop all 10 of his professional opponents to date. Acosta, a World Junior Champion in the amateur ranks is now based in Cork having turned professional in 2008.
The Yanjing Beer Fight Night will be live on Sky Sports and tickets priced ￡30, ￡60 and ￡90 are available from Ticketmaster and all usual outlets. Contact Ticketmaster 0844 8472455 (0818 719300 from ROI), Box Office 01277 359900, Julie 07745698372, Francie 07803282224.