by Ben Randall
While the world’s boxing audience will be focusing it’s lens on the collection of bright stars vying for glory in the 154 lb. division this coming Saturday in Las Vegas, a few hours earlier and a few thousand miles away across the ‘pond’, an intriguing duel takes place between two of the sports smaller celestial bodies, one that has all but faded out and one that has been exposed briefly to the mass boxing market and is trying earnestly to claim a marquee spot on the other side of the prized Welterweight division, in its Junior sibling.
Ireland’s former European 140 lb. champion, Paul McCloskey (23-1, 12 KOs) or ‘Dudey’ as he is affectionately known to his loyal fans takes on American former world champion DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley (38-19-1, 22 KO’s) at the Kings Hall in Belfast in a 12 rounder which the hometown fighter hopes will give him a ranking with the WBC and a subsequent shot against either current belt holder, Danny Garcia or the perennial #1 contender, Ajose Olusegun assuming the latter is actually ever given his chance by the sanctioning body.
McCloskey’s first and so far only shot at world honours came by way of a fight with Amir Khan in April 2011 which ended controversially after a clash of heads in the 6th round opened up what seemed like a fairly innocuous cut over McCloskey’s left eye and was stopped on doctors orders. McCloskey’s camp and promotional team were vocal in their disapproval at the manner in which the fight was stopped and lobbied for a rematch, but Khan had bigger fish to fry and promptly moved on with the fateful defence against Lamont Peterson.
It’s worth noting that at the time of the stoppage Khan had taken all 6 rounds on the judges’ cards and made a case that McCloskey had offered no threat and could therefore have no real basis for another shot straight away, but McCloskey is a slow starter and while Khan was the busier, he wasn’t having enormous success in landing in a meaningful way and many fans felt that the 2nd half of the fight would be where Dudey would come into his own and capitalise on the tiring champion.
Khan blamed his lack lustre performance on a switch in conditioning coaches, having sacked Alex Ariza shortly after the Maidana fight, but in reality his slippery, awkward opponent made Khan’s night a difficult one until the fortuitous clash of heads and over-protective doctor brought an early end to proceedings.
McCloskey fought once more in September 2011, deciding to try and make his case for a Khan rematch by taking on the champion’s nemesis, Colombian, Breidis Prescott. McCloskey won that fight unanimously on points, but it was a close affair with Prescott taking an early lead and then tiring in the second half while McCloskey again started lethargically and eventually capitalised on his fading opponent. Many, including the Colombian himself, felt that the Irishman had benefited from favourable hometown judging, but in close contests such outcomes are to be expected in the absence of a convincing performance.
McCloskey has been dormant since then, an extended period of inactivity is dangerous for a fighter trying to earn another title shot, the risk being that they become irrelevant and their position is usurped by another, more willing, hungrier. It wasn’t for the lack of trying and the Dungiven man used Twitter to try and coax the likes of Marcos Maidana into signing up, but all to no avail.
He has finally landed Corley after originally signing to fight Julio Diaz, who pulled out due to concerns over being able to make weight. Corley’s resume reads like a veritable who’s who of boxing having been matched against some of the biggest names in the sport including Mayweather, Cotto, Judah and Devon Alexander to name but a few. But his 37 years and 19 losses tells its own tale and he is here by virtue of a ‘shock’ victory over previously undefeated Gabriel Bracero back in January which arrested a run of 6 straight losses. A loss to Bracero would surely have brought the curtain down on a career whose high point was holding the WBO version of the 140 crown a decade ago.
But he is here, trying one last time and facing McCloskey who needs to kick on and win in style if he wants to stay relevant in a division with still plenty of talent to keep things interesting for those who can’t put the weight on to get into the big league welter and junior middle classes.
Expect McCloskey to take a comfortable points decision after surviving a couple of scares early, but if Dudey wants to set the world alight he is going to have to start taking a few risks and showing us more than just the occasional spark of ability.
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