PAUL McCloskey proved many of his doubters wrong at the weekend as he fought superbly to out-fox and out-box an extremely tough Latino opponent, claiming the WBA Inter-Continental title in the process.
While ‘Dudey’ romped to a unanimous points victory in a one-sided contest, his superior speed and skill proving decisive, the Dungiven man admitted afterwards it wasn’t his best performance.
Despite McCloskey’s critical assessment of his own performance against Manuel Perez, his victory over the WBA ranked fighter is sure to help put Dudey back on track for a world title shot.
He controlled the bout throughout, forcing Perez early on to press his elbows close to his ribs to protect himself from Dudey’s clever body punches, allowing the Dungiven man to unload to the tough-as-teak Latino’s head for the remainder of the bout.
Much speculation had gone on before the contest as to whether Dudey would change his usual manner of fighting with his hands down, Roy Jones Junior style, after a painful defeat to De Marcus Corley in his last bout. Corley, a man who once came close to knocking out one of the greatest fighters of all time in Floyd Mayweather Junior, exploited McCloskey’s failure to cover up and eventually stopped an unusually sluggish-looking Dudey back in May.
During this contest, however, a much sharper McCloskey had seemingly regained his quick reflexes and managed to avoid being tagged on all but a few occasions, despite persisting with the risky tactic of fighting with his hands down.
Such was his control over Perez, on numerous occasions he even stuck out his chin in a show of bravado, inviting the Colorado-based fighter to see if he was fast enough to catch him.
While these shows of machismo may have worried McCloskey’s coach John Breen, they provoked a furious reaction from Perez’s corner. “The next time he does that, hit him right in the throat!” was the advice from the visitor’s coach Jacob Ramos. Continued cries of “aim for the throat” could be heard on every occasion Dudey thrust his face into range in a taunting act of showmanship.
This was an in-form and in-control Paul McCloskey intent on giving the thousands of fans at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast a spectacle to remember. Perez, however, did manage to catch him on a couple of occasions, although Dudey looked unconcerned by the Mexican-American’s power.
The main downside to McCloskey’s performance was his failure to knock his opponent out when the opportunity presented itself in the ninth round, which may have been what prompted McCloskey to tell Sky Sports “it wasn’t my best performance”.
A truly bizarre exchange and the highlight of the fight came in the ninth round when McCloskey caused Perez to stop in his tracks with a crunching blow. Perez, with a glazed expression in his eyes and apparently very little going on between the ears, simply dropped his hands and stood stalk-still for an excruciating few seconds.
McCloskey let rip, landing a series of painful blows in a flurry of punches, but was ultimately unable to capitalise and knock his opponent out. The American, famed in his home-town of Denver for his tough chin, was able to recover and never looked in any great danger of being stopped throughout the remainder of the contest.
Indeed, in the last round Perez came out of the blocks determined to take his only chance of victory by knocking out the Dungiven man. Spurred on by shouts of “do it for your family” from his corner, Perez couldn’t muster the speed or strength to put McCloskey in any kind of danger.
The result was never in any doubt, and the judges returned a unanimous decision, scoring 118-110, 118-111 and 118-112 in McCloskey’s favour.
His thoughts are now sure to turn to a new opponent and he will be hoping eventually for another crack at a world title, after his title-shot against British boxer Amir Khan was controversially ended because of a tiny, insignificant looking cut to McCloskey’s brow.
Dudey and the raucous crowd who travelled to Belfast to watch him fight will be hoping that if his dream of another title-shot comes true, he will at least be allowed the opportunity to test himself over the full 12 rounds.
If he can do what he says he can and improve on Saturday night’s performance, the ‘Dudey Army’ might just be in with a chance of witnessing history.
The man himself said: “If I’m at my best I can beat anybody.”