Paul McCloskey will finally get his chance at a European title on July 3rd but the undefeated Derry man will have to concede home advantage by travelling to France to battle it out with former World Champion Souleymane M'baye for the vacant European Light Welterweight title.
McCloskey was made an offer that manager and trainer John Breen admitted was simply too good to refuse to travel to Paris to take on M’baye. “They made us a very, very good offer to go to France but Paul’s one of those guys who has no problems going into the lions den,” said Breen.
The fight will take place at the Palais des Sport Marcel Cerdan in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret in what is effectively M’baye’s hometown.
“They could fight in M’baye’s front room as far as I’m concerned and Paul would still beat him. I’ve said all along he’s a World Champion in the making and he’ll prove that again that winning a European title on the road.
“Paul beat Colin Lynes in his back yard to win the British title at a weeks notice and his first defence was on the road too against Dean Harrison in Liverpool and he knocked him out so it’s not an issue for him.
“He’s in good shape because we’ve known for a while now that the fight was going to happen in early July but now that the venue and an exact date has been set we have something to focus on.”
McCloskey echoed Breen’s sentiments and says he can’t wait to get his hands on the European title. “I’ve no problem going to Paris,” revealed the undefeated Dungiven southpaw. “It’s a beautiful city and hopefully it will be a beautiful night with me lifting the European title.
"At the end of the day when the ring clears and that first bell goes it will be just me, him and the referee in that ring so the crowd won’t have any affect on me.”
Despite his confidence McCloskey has long been an admirer of M’baye who held the WBA World Light Welterweight title from 2006 – 2007. “I used to watch a lot of M’baye’s early fights when I was still in the amateurs, revealed McCloskey.
”He’s very slick, durable and he can punch a bit himself. There’s no doubt about it he’s a world class operator, you don’t win World titles without being world class. He’s only been beaten 3 times in 41 fights and he has wins over some very good fighters including Andriy Kotelnik who’s defending his World title against Amir Khan this month.”
McCloskey though believes that he can use the European title as a spring board to even further success. “This is a huge opportunity for me. Manny Pacquiao aside there is no one in the division that’s setting the world alight. Winning the European title would set me up nicely for a shot at a World title.
"Obviously I’d like to consolidate at European level first with a couple of defences but if Amir Khan can take the World title off Kotelnik in a few weeks time then that’s a fight I would relish at some point down the road.”