Controversy erupts after Khan-McCloskey
Amir Khan’s troubled homecoming ended on yet another controversial note when the Englishman’s defense of his WBA light welterweight crown against European champion Paul McCloskey ended prematurely after a clash of heads in the sixth.
Khan started the brighter of the two, with the champion being able to pierce through McCloskey’s defenses seemingly at will thanks to his superior hand speed and shot selection.
McCloskey refused to be bowed and showed tremendous heart and resilience in standing up to Khan’s frequent flurries, but he struggled to mount much offense of his own. Instead it looked as if the smaller, lighter McCloskey was hoping to test the conditioning of a Khan who had been rumored to have struggled with the weight cut.
“I was fighting to a gameplan,” the Irishman explained after the fight. “I could see it was working when he was getting tired.”
McCloskey, however, would not get the chance to put into action his rope-a-dope tactics as toward the end of the sixth round he was cut after a clash of heads. Despite the cut being located away from the eye-lid and being relatively small with little blood flowing, the ringside physician ordered the fight be stopped.
Cue chaotic scenes as the referee tried to restore order as Khan’s camp rushed to celebrate while McCloskey’s team remonstrated angrily with the ringside officials.
“Worst stoppage I have ever seen,” fumed Barry Hearn, owner of McCloskey’s promoter Matchroom, immediately after the fight. “We’ve all been robbed tonight” he told assembled journalists. “The fans have been deprived of a great fight, and Paul’s had his dream taken away.”
Eventually order was restored, and the scorecards after six rounds could be read. It was purely a formality with few disputing Khan deservedly had taken all six rounds. But the bad blood not only continued but spilled out in farcical scenes at the post-fight press conference.
McCloskey’s camp angrily remonstrated with Khan's promoter, former champion Oscar De La Hoya, as he batted away questions on whether the fight should have been stopped with the formulaic answer, “I’m not a doctor.”
McCloskey’s camp demanded the European champion have the chance to avenge the controversial defeat, something that neither De La Hoya nor Khan were interested in.
“Yes, you deserve a rematch,” said a conciliatory De La Hoya, “but right now I have my plans for Khan to fight to unify the titles.”
Khan was even more emphatic, dismissing the idea that McCloskey deserved a rematch.
“Listen to the champ,” he chided the former challenger after telling the Irishman. “You should be happy that the fight ended like that because I would have knocked you out.”
Khan showed little sympathy to his disappointed opponent, critiquing his performance including his stance, conditioning and lack of offensive.
“Job done,” was Khan’s blunt assessment of his night’s work.
Understandably, McCloskey and his team disagreed. After De La Hoya ended the press conference, Hearn told those present, “The British Boxing Board of Control have confirmed that they will launch a full investigation with the World Boxing Association, and we will demand a rematch.”
McCloskey angrily denied apparent comments from Khan and Roach that he had quit in the sixth round, insisting that despite the doctor telling him the cut was bad, when he went to the corner, they were able to stop the bleeding with just a wipe of a towel.
“I can't believe the way it all ended,” reflected a disappointed McCloskey. “It was a lifetime of work.”
And when asked whether he thought the fight would have been stopped if the roles were reversed and Khan had a small cut on his forehead, he had only one answer: “Not a hope in hell!”