Paul McCloskey is hoping that an impressive win over English Champion Nigel Wright on the Ladbrokes Fight Night at the University Arena in Limerick, Ireland on July 19 will land him the title shot which he desperately craves.
The County Derry stylist is unbeaten in 16 pro fights and he says he’s ready for a title shot be that on the British, European or World stage.“I feel I’m ready for anyone right now,” said the Dungiven native. “I’m 28, so I don’t have any time to waste and I’d jump at the chance of fighting for a major title.”
McCloskey has watched with interest some of the major moves in the light welterweight division recently and he hopes to join the movers and shakers with a win over Wright.
“Things are changing all the time, the WBC, WBA, WBO titles have all changed hands recently as has the European title," he said. "I’d love a crack at any one of those guys. Ricky Hatton is still the top man in the division and that would be a dream fight for me. I was over in Manchester sparring his brother Matthew before his last fight and Ricky was training for the Lazcano fight. I would have loved the chance to spar Ricky as well but with me being a southpaw and Lazcano being orthodox, it wasn’t really an option.”
Speaking of southpaws, McCloskey has also been keeping a close eye on fellow portsider and British Champion David Barnes, who retained his title last weekend courtesy of a points win over former champ Barry Morrison.
“It wasn’t the greatest of fights, to be honest, but Barnes did what he had to do," said McCloskey. "Morrison just didn’t seem to have a plan B and you can be assured if I got a crack at Barnes, I’d have plenty of plans up my sleeve. He’s a good, solid fighter, but I’d be very confident of beating him. He likes to fight at his own pace, so I don’t think he likes to be put under pressure.”
In fact, McCloskey believes there are a lot of similarities between Barnes and his opponent in Limerick, Nigel Wright. “Well the obvious one is that they are both southpaw, but I think they have similar styles as well. Nigel has a tendency to fade in the middle rounds, so again, I think that putting pressure on him from the start might be the best way to fight him. He is a pretty fast starter himself though but I think I’ll surprise him because I’ll be quick out of the blocks as well.”
As well as working hard with trainer John Breen, McCloskey has also spent time with Ricky Hatton’s conditioning coach and nutritionist Kerry Kayes.
“I had a few good conversations with Kerry when I was in Manchester and since then he’s been over to Belfast to speak with me and the rest of the lads at John’s gym. I’ve always been very interested in that side of the sport and it’s something I’ve always taken seriously so it was great to get some input from Kerry as well.”
McCloskey has brought in Ugandan puncher Badru Lusambya for some intensive sparring ahead of his July 19 date in Limerick and he says preparations could not have gone better.
“Lusambya’s been giving me some good work," he said. "He’s unbeaten in 18 fights and has 16 KO’s so he’s pretty ambitious himself. I get great sparring in the gym as it is with the likes of Neil Sinclair, Stephen Haughian, Jim Rock and Jason McKay, but you need new guys as well to freshen things up. At this level, you can’t afford to cut any corners in your preparations and this fight with Wright really is a very important one for me.”
McCloskey admits to being puzzled at recently being named “the most protected fighter at light welterweight” by the Ring magazine, but he says he’s not unduly bothered.
“At the end of the day what’s written on a piece on paper doesn’t matter, it’s what you achieve in your career. I know people will look at my last few fights and say that they’ve been too easy but that’s because I’ve made them look easy.
“That’s my style of fighting and I think it demoralised some of these guys. Garnica had been robbed against Juan Lazcano not long before fighting me and of course, he [Lazcano] went on to fight Ricky Hatton recently. Bazan was a former World Champion and believe me, was still a tough, tough guy.
“Since fighting me, both Bazan and Garnica have gone on to record wins and Bazan is scheduled to fight on the Cotto vs. Margarito undercard in a couple of week's time. People have said that they were finished, but I think that’s because I made them look finished so sometimes you can be a victim of your own success. I know though that if I get the opportunity I’ll prove I belong at the highest level.”
McCloskey’s ten round bout with Wright is the chief support to the clash between Andy Lee and Willie “The Gladiator” Gibbs on the Ladbrokes.com Fight Night at the University Arena in Limerick on July 19.
The eight bout card also features welterweight prospect Stephen Haughian from Lurgan, Galway’s John O’Donnell, former Lee opponent, Jason McKay, Castlebar puncher Keith Cresham, Limerick’s own Jamie Power and the pro debut of Canadian - Irishman Logan McGuinness.
Tickets for the Ladbrokes.com Fight Night priced from €60 are available from Ticketmaster.ie, and all usual outlets.