Amir Khan beats Paul McCloskey to retain WBA title
Amir Khan retained his WBA light-welterweight title with a controversial points decision over Paul McCloskey in Manchester's MEN Arena on Saturday.
A clash of heads in the sixth resulted in a cut above McCloskey's eye and after consultation with the ringside doctor the referee stopped the fight.
All three judges scored the scrappy fight 60-54 in Khan's favour.
McCloskey's furious manager Barry Hearn vowed to lodge a complaint over the stoppage which he called a "disgrace".
Khan's last fight was a stunning points victory over hard-hitting Argentine Marcos Maidana, but this was a scrappy, stop-start affair that never came close to the same sensational standard.
That contest in Las Vegas in 2010 was a fight of the year contender and will live long in the memory but Saturday's meeting with McCloskey will be quickly forgotten.
It was a disappointing encounter, that had no meaningful action, which justified the lack of pre-fight interest from broadcasters, with Khan made to miss far too often as the 24-year-old looked one-dimensional in his approach to defeating 31-year-old McCloskey.
Once the early barrage had failed to break the defence and spirit of the challenger, Khan seemed short of ideas with McCloskey also showing he possessed an iron chin.
McCloskey offered little in the way of attack other than the occasional wild left hook but proved an awkward opponent for Khan who never really troubled the Northern Irishman until the pace slowed considerably at the start of the fifth.
Khan dug McCloskey with left hooks as the challenger continued to load up left hands, only to be caught with a hard right to the chin that wobbled him for the first time.
That buoyed Khan who sprung into life in the sixth and after a trademark flurry of punches a clash of heads left McCloskey with an at first innocuous cut above his left eye.
The fight was stopped for what many believed was going to be a routine inspection, but after a conversation with the ringside doctor the contest was ended.
At first the previously unbeaten McCloskey offered little in the way of a protest, perhaps sensing the tide in the fight was turning, although when interviewed afterwards he toed the party line that he had in fact been cheated.
Hearn was more vigorous in his protests, arguing that McCloskey's corner were never given the opportunity to work on the cut as emotions came close to boiling over inside the ring against a chorus of boos inside the MEN Arena that had hosted around 18,000 spectators.
McCloskey's fans and team were fuming and Khan, while delighted, clearly felt for his opponent.
"I'm sorry it had to end that way," he told McCloskey before shaking hands with the loser.
McCloskey stopped short of accusing Khan of dirty tactics - indeed, the champion seemed blameless - but the Ulsterman was clearly unhappy.
"The way the doctor put it to me, I thought I was badly cut," he said. "He told me it was really bad."
Asked whether he thought Khan was being careless with his head, McCloskey said: "How did I get the cut? I wouldn't say he did it intentionally but it was a clash of heads."
Hearn, who has been a boxing promoter since the 1980s, added: "It is a shameful decision, we will make a complaint and we want a re-match. I have been in the game a long time and I am absolutely astonished, I cannot believe that fight was stopped."
Either way it seemed before the clash of heads that the fight was going only one way and the judges agreed, unanimously awarding the champion victory.
At a chaotic post-fight press conference Khan's side rejected the prospect of a rematch, though McCloskey's co-promoter Eddie Hearn claimed the British Boxing Board of Control have promised to open an investigation.
Khan, though, was bullish.
"He didn't win one round," he said. "I was hurting him, I wasn't tired, and I promise you if it had gone two more rounds he would have been knocked out. There is no point in a rematch."
Khan, who now has a record of 25 victories and one defeat, hopes that a unification fight with WBC and WBO champion Timothy Bradley in the summer will be next. However, after this performance, perhaps his trainer Freddie Roach will look to delay that meeting until later in the year.
Meanwhile, on the undercard, Leicester binman Rendall Munroe made a winning return following his unsuccessful world title challenge last year with a unanimous decision over Andrei Isaeu.
Craig Watson lost his British welterweight title to Lee Purdy after being dropped and stopped in round five.
Read more: news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/boxing/13107047.stm
Angry scenes at the MEN as Khan fight stopped due to McCloskey cut
Amir Khan stayed on course for a world unification fight this year after a controversial night in Manchester that could result in an investigation by the authorities.
There were amazing scenes at the end of the WBA light-welterweight title fight, with promoter Barry Hearn yelling ‘It’s a ****ing disgrace’ after Khan was declared the winner by a unanimous technical points verdict following a clash of heads in the sixth round.
Referee Luis Pabon ruled that Hearn’s fighter, Paul McCloskey, was unable to continue because of a cut above his left eye, ruling the clash was accidental and sending the decision to the three ringside judges, who declared Khan had won all six rounds for a 60-54 victory.
But the McCloskey camp believed that the cut had been caused deliberately and that Khan should have been disqualified instead of successfully defending his title.
‘That was a disgraceful call,’ said Hearn. ‘That was Paul’s dream. Of course it is a cut, but I have seen them 20 times worse, so I’ve no idea why it was stopped. It was shaping up to be a great fight and I can’t understand the decision
‘If you accept it was an accidental clash of heads, which I do, then the fight should have continued. This is very hard to take. The referee is in charge, the sole arbiter, and he must understand he has discredited boxing. You get cut in boxing and that was not a serious one.
‘We will make a complaint to British Boxing Board of Control. There’s no way this fight should have been stopped. It’s not to say that Amir Khan would have gone on to win the fight? We’ll never know. We were robbed by ineptitude, by very sloppy refereeing.
‘If the doctor said it should be stopped then he shouldn’t be allowed to be a doctor at fights. This is a hard, physical game.’
After the fight was dropped by Sky pay-per-view, it turned into one of the most controversial of recent times in British boxing. The victory will not go down as one of Khan’s finest, watched by anestimated 10,000 on Primetime TV, who had taken the contest as a payper- view event at short notice.
Nonetheless, the MEN Arena was almost sold out, creating a genuine big-fight atmosphere with a large section of Irish supporters roaring on their man against the odds-on favourite.
McCloskey proved himself to be a skilful and elusive fighter and the champion won rounds through his expert aggression and the fact that he was landing more punches.
But McCloskey’s ability to slip Khan’s shots kept him in the fight. Just when it seemed that Khan was in for an awkward night the contest reached a dramatic conclusion.
As the boxers came together in a neutral corner, McCloskey reeled back with a big gash above his left eye. Referee Pabon stopped the fight and called the doctor who ruled that the unbeaten European champion’s challenge could not continue and, because the clash of heads was accidental, victory went to the man ahead on points.
Khan believes he would have won even if the fight had continued. ‘I was peppering McCloskey and it was easy,’ he said. ‘The decision was between the doctor and referee, not me. If the fight had carried on, McCloskey would’ve got badly hurt and no one wants to see that.’ His destiny now seems to be a unification fight with Timothy Bradley, the WBO champion.
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