Northern Ireland's Paul McCloskey's hopes of a world light welterweight title fight suffered a major blow on Saturday night after he was stopped in the 10th round by American veteran DeMarcus Corley. McCloskey looked to be on course to win the fight in front of his home fans at the King's Hall in Belfast when he was caught by a thumping right hand by the man from Washington DC.
McCloskey was clearly badly shaken and blood spurted from his nose as his legs wobbled violently, prompting referee Ian John Lewis to step in and wave the fight off. It may have been a premature stoppage but the referee clearly felt that McCloskey was unfit to continue and in the interests of safety it was the correct decision.
The 37-year-old Corley had earlier landed some solid shots but his opponent - five years younger and with just one defeat on his record to Amir Khan - was on top due to his workrate and the quality of his boxing. But one punch changed everything and former WBO champion Corley may well be looking for another title shot after this surprise victory took his record to 39-19-1.
McCloskey's future looks uncertain but he showed plenty of dignity in defeat, refusing to suggest that the stoppage was premature, as so many beaten fighters would surely have tried to do.
He told Sky Sports: "I will have to sit down and figure out what went wrong. But you have to give this man a bit of credit. He is a quality operator. His record might tell a different story but he is a quality fighter. This was last chance saloon for this fellow so he came and gave it a good go.
"He caught me with a great shot. I thought I could have carried on but every fighter thinks he can fight on, so I am gutted. It is a massive, massive setback for me."