Paul McCloskey is gunning for a star-making upset of Amir Khan on Saturday in Manchester. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Sometimes, fights are doomed from the start. While Saturday's fight between Amir Khan and Paul McCloskey will still go ahead, and maybe wouldn't be classified as "doomed" since its existence isn't threatened, the fight has certainly seen its share of troubles.
Khan began searching for...well, how do you want to put it? An easier opponent? An easier opponent at home in the UK? A UK payday against an easier opponent? However you choose to phrase it, after beating Marcos Maidana in February, Khan was expected to take a step back in competition. There were flirtations between Khan and Lamont Peterson for a fight, with Peterson coming off of a tough draw against Victor Ortiz on the Khan-Maidana undercard, but in the end we wound up with Khan booked against European junior welterweight champ Paul McCloskey, a 31-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland.
I'm not saying McCloskey is a terrible opponent. I don't think he is. All things considered, he's a perfectly acceptable opponent, especially for what we all know was intended to be a UK money fight for Khan, a "homecoming" of sorts after spending his entire 2010 fighting in the United States, conquering Malignaggi and Maidana.
But if Khan expected to receive some massive hero's welcome, he got a reality check. When a decent co-feature attraction fell through twice, Sky Sports decided to pull the event from their PPV service, Sky Box Office. This was reported to have cost Khan upwards of £1 million. Sky offered to put the fight on Sky Sports 3, but an agreement could not be reached, so the major sports and boxing broadcaster in the UK pulled the plug on their support.
Scrambling, Khan-McCloskey was sent to another UK PPV carrier, Primetime. There still isn't much of an undercard, not by UK viewer standards anyway. I've seen some UK fans call the £14.95 pricetag "shocking" for this event.
But it is what it is, and the fight is going forward. So let's talk about the fight.
I said a moment ago that McCloskey is not a bad opponent. I'll stand by that. I also don't think he has much shot of winning this fight. McCloskey (22-0, 12 KO) has stopped his last five opponents, but I don't think I'm knocking anyone unnecessarily when I say that Colin Lynes, Dean Harrison, Daniel Rasilla, Giuseppe Lauri and Barry Morrison are hardly on Khan's level.
Sure, Khan (24-1, 17 KO) has been knocked cold before. But to get knocked cold, Khan was caught cold by a guy with a pretty big right. Breidis Prescott is nothing more than a mediocre brawler when you get right down to it, but he landed big shots on Khan, and landed them clean. Khan wasn't knocked down or stopped when he got caught by Marcos Maidana in December, and McCloskey doesn't have the big power of either Maidana or Prescott.
I don't mean to sound insulting or dismissive when I say this, but this fight reminds me a lot more of Khan-Dmitriy Salita than it does Khan-Prescott or Khan-Maidana. At best, this fight might look like Khan-Malignaggi. McCloskey is not a special fighter, just a credible fighter. He's good, but is nowhere near Khan's class of talent.
As such, I'm having a really hard time seeing anything more than Khan using his excellent speed and ever-improving at-range offense to batter McCloskey into a stoppage. McCloskey has not seen speed -- and the power that comes from such speed -- like this before in his pro career, and I expect him to find himself a bit taken aback, even overwhelmed. Khan fought like he had something to prove against Maidana, or to put it another way, Khan fought recklessly and at times a bit stupidly against Maidana. I don't think he's trying to prove anything against McCloskey. He's established now. He's coming to fight and to win, and to do so convincingly, I don't think he'll have to do anything more than use what God and Freddie Roach (not necessarily in that order) have given him. Pick: Amir Khan TKO-7
The Undercard: Quick Glance From an American
Super bantamweight contender Rendall Munroe (21-2, 9 KO) should beat Andrei Isaeu (23-2, 7 KO) in his Hatton Promotions debut, but it won't surprise me if "The Boxing Bin Man" has some trouble. Isaeu has been a (very, very) fringe contender at featherweight for a little while now, and it's a decent return for Munroe, who hasn't fought since his October loss to Toshiaki Nishioka. ... British welterweight champion Craig Watson (20-3, 8 KO) should handle Lee Purdy (14-2-1, 7 KO) without much trouble. The 23-year-old Purdy does have youth on his side. ... Middleweight Martin Murray (21-0, 8 KO) has never much impressed me. His opponent, John Anderson Carvalho (21-4-1, 11 KO) has the distinction of being Brazil's best middleweight. He was knocked out in two by Gennady Golovkin and lost a virtual shutout to Sebastian Zbik, and it was legit scoring. ... Gary Buckland (21-2, 8 KO) returns from his November Prizefighter win to face Rafael Hernandez (13-3-1, 11 KO) in super featherweight action. Hernandez is a Venezuelan fighting in the UK for the first time, though he has fought in Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Thailand before.