McCloskey faces uncertain future after tenth round stoppage

Tick the following clichés: ‘Age is only a number’, ‘Southpaws should be banned’, ‘Records are for DJs,’ ‘There's a big leap from domestic to world level’. There is nothing like a bit of retrospective wisdom, but the stark reality is that whilst most commentators expected a tough fight from DeMarcus 'Chop Chop' Corley, few believed he would actually win. The match up was supposed to be a building fight for Dungiven southpaw Paul McCloskey and promoter Eddie Hearn had already prefaced this fight with the pledge of delivering McCloskey a second world title tilt in Belfast at the end of the summer.

That world title shot was brutally extinguished as Chop Chop Corley busted McCloskey’s nose and wobbled the Dungiven southpaw several times before stopping him in the tenth round at the Kings Hall on Saturday night.

Corley turns 38 next month and came into this fight with poor run of results, losing in six of his previous seven outings. Prior to that form he has losses on his record from British fighters Ashley Theoplane and Junior Witter and has shared a ring with Miguel Cotto, Zab Judah and Floyd Mayweather – losing to all three.

Post-fight, McCloskey’s promoter joined DeMarcus Corley for the post-fight press conference and reiterated that he and McCloskey’s team were happy with the McCorley match up – underlining the point that if McCloskey is to seal a second world title shot that he should be dealing with fighters like Corley.

As Corley (9st 12lb 2oz) entered the Kings Hall arena donning a bizarre looking modified black motorcycle helmet and accompanied by a member of his team wearing a white mask, it looked like the beginning of an eventful night. Fashion-conscious Chop Chop Corley confirmed that the masks were his own personal designs and that he wears them, not so much to try and affect his opponent – but ‘for himself.’

However, after an even and cagey feeling-out opening round, the bout took on a theme that played out until the timely intervention by Ian John Lewis at 2.28 of the tenth round. That theme was the clinical penetration of McCloskey’s (10st 1lb) open defence were he was constantly punished by Corley’s stinging right counters and struggled to evade Chop Chop’s lead rights. McCloskey struggled all night to get to grips with Corley’s southpaw style and he didn’t seem tactically prepared to combat it nor did he have the sharpness to get in and out of range to land his own arsenal.

At the end of the second round, disaster struck for McCloskey when he stood helpless in range to take flush right and left straight shots that badly busted open his nose. Dudey came out for the third round with his nose still pouring blood that was leaking profusely into his mouth - forcing the Dungiven to spit blood onto the canvas. Corley’s adrenalin was up and he taunted the home favourite telling him that his ‘nose was broke’.

Corley revealed after the fight that he knew that McCloskey’s resolve was strong when the Dungiven man coldly replied ‘that’s ok’ and continued to take the fight to Corley. However, the third round ended very badly for McCloskey as he was rocked to his boots with a flush right and was very fortunate that the bell sounded to end round at that moment.

Corley was lightly jabbing McCloskey on the arm as a range finder and following it up with stinging flush rights that McCloskey was unable to avoid. Corley continued the beating and dominated the next two rounds, were he wobbled McCloskey again with his right in the fifth round. McCloskey’s nose continued to bleed badly, but the Derry man showed remarkable heart and fighting spirit to try and turn around the fight.

McCloskey took three of the next four rounds by embarking on a strategy that revolved around better use of the jab and throwing hard straight, single leads downstairs – a tactic that helped turnaround the Prescott fight. However, Corley has a more seasoned boxing pedigree than Prescott and did not allow McCloskey to force him onto the back foot. Corley still came forward and when McCloskey mixed up the body assaults with head hunting he failed to land cleanly and often got countered.

Corley acknowledged after the fight that McCloskey started to work the body from the sixth round but scoffed that the Dungiven southpaw had left it too late to start breaking him down in the middle juncture of the fight, stating that McCloskey should been going downstairs from the first round.

The end of the fight came in the tenth round when McCloskey got caught with a flush right head shot in the centre of the ring. This writer had a perfect vantage point to witness the affect of this punch as McCloskey was facing the press row square. After the punch landed McCloskey’s legs wobbled badly and for a couple of seconds he swayed unevenly with hands flailing to his side and looking very dazed.

Referee Ian John Lewis, who had the best view in the house, immediately noticed this and walked in to stop the fight. However, the referee hesitated before he finally waved the fight off and for a split second no one was sure what he was going to do.

When the referee did finally stop the fight, McCloskey had returned to his senses and looked like he could have fought on. The referee’s intervention was absolutely in the best interests of the fighter and perfectly timed, but the indecisive confirmation of the stoppage made it look slightly premature.

It was surprising to learn at ringside after the fight that at the time of the stoppage all three judges had McCloskey ahead on the scorecards. This writer had Corley winning by two rounds at the completion of round nine.

Corley was upset to hear that he was behind on points on all three of the judges’ scorecards and complained that it was ‘bad for boxing’ and lamented that he was on the unfairly on the wrong end of scoring on several of his recent losses.

Corley now moves back into contention as a fringe world level contender, whereas McCloskey has a very long road back to that level, if at all. Although McCloskey recorded narrow points win against Breidis Prescott last year, he has accumulated a lot of shots in his last two fights and the signs are becoming more evident that he is losing the vital sharpness to continue effectively with his low-handed reflex-based style.

On the evidence of the past two fights, McCloskey’s hyped allusive defensive skills appear to be ineffective at fringe world level. Hearn has stated that if McCloskey decides to fight on that there could be a potential European Title shot in September, but the Dungiven man will need to take stock of his career and think carefully about a ring return.

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