Category: Archive

Brave McCullough must quit fight game now

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Concerned that Frazier could no longer see the punches coming, his trainer Eddie Futch wouldn’t let him come out for the 15th.
“Don’t do this, Eddie,” pleaded Frazier. “I want this, boss.”
“Sit down, son, it’s all over,” replied Futch. “No one will ever forget what you did here today.”
By going against the wishes of his fighter, Futch might have saved his life, certainly spared his dignity and guaranteed that that epic would go down in the annals of the sport. Not quite two years after his death, the wily old trainer’s ghost hung over the Braehead Arena near Glasgow last Saturday night. Watching one of Futch’s old charges, Wayne McCullough, get pummeled for 12 rounds by Scotland’s Wayne Harrison, there was widespread amazement at why his corner allowed him to suffer long after the outcome of the fight had been decided.
“I was totally surprised by the lack of compassion from their corner,” said Harrison’s manager, Frank Maloney. “That was an accident waiting to happen here and, thankfully, we got to the 12th round and the fight was over.”
“The fight should have been stopped,” said promoter Frank Warren. “I’m surprised because Wayne’s trainer, Kenny Croom, is a nice guy and he learned the trade with Eddie Futch and we all know what Eddie Futch did with Joe Frazier.”
Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Never did that saying apply more appropriately than to the boxing career of McCullough. Since turning to the paid ranks shortly after gaining silver at the Barcelona Olympics, the best Irish professional since Barry McGuigan has given fantastic entertainment. Going to Japan to win a world championship from a Japanese title-holder will go down as one of the great achievements by any Irish fighter ever. However, those who witnessed him being led away to an ambulance with a distorted ear and severely bruised head last Saturday night can vouchsafe his best days are long gone and he should now retire.
“You have what we call a cerebral reserve where it’s almost like any other kind of reserve, financial or otherwise,” testified Richard Restak, a clinical professor of neurology at George Washington University, during a court case concerning Riddick Bowe, an old friend of McCullough’s, some years ago. “You write a certain check, all the money is gone. Same thing here. You take a certain number of punches, particularly if they’re in close proximity, then you can have a dramatic fall-off in a person’s ability to cope.”
It is one of the perversions of the sport of boxing that there is a prize awarded each year to the fighter deemed to have the best jaw. This roughly translates as the guy who can take the most punishment without being knocked down or out. Despite going in against top class opponents like Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales, McCullough has never hit the canvas in a professional outing. Quite a boast. Except it masks the fact that his undoubted bravery is probably coming at a huge cost to his well-being. A hugely popular figure on the American and British boxing scenes, McCullough is articulate and charming enough to begin a handy second career in the media. Any more nights like last Saturday, however, and his ability to speak fluently may well be a casualty of his own courage.
“The atmosphere in the arena and my passion for the sport definitely got me through the later rounds,” McCullough said. “I thank God we both came through safely. I am grateful to staff and doctors at the Southern General Hospital who treated me after the fight. I respect Scott Harrison and agree that he is a true world champion. He beat me easiest of all the world champions. He hurt me the most. He’s super, super strong. I’d rather be stopped when I’m on the canvas, not when I’m on my feet. Now it’s back to Las Vegas, back to the sunshine to take a rest. I just gotta sit back and look at things.”
When a fighter has to thank the local hospital in his post-bout statements, there is no surer signal that he shouldn’t be getting in the ring again. Notwithstanding the view that the discovery of a cyst on his brain three years ago might have been a convenient and sensible time for McCullough to call it a day, a number of fight fans now wish the 32-year-old McCullough would have made good on an earlier promise to get out of boxing before his 30th birthday. Like the majority of fighters outside the heavyweight division, he has never enjoyed the enormous paydays of a Tyson or Lewis, but all reports suggest he has been sensible enough with his finances. Whether he has the sense to get out while he can still enjoy the fruits of that labor is the moot point.
Several times during his loss to Harrison, sections of the crowd were chanting at the referee John Coyle to “Stop the fight! Stop the fight!” These weren’t Harrison supporters baying for blood, hoping for victory to be confirmed. Rather, they were concerned citizens not wanting a terrible tragedy to unfold before their very eyes. Even Harrison’s own corner were calling for McCullough’s seconds to throw in the towel from the ninth round onwards, recognizing the utter futility of him continuing to fight. Constantly asked about why he prevented Frazier answering the bell all those years ago in the Phillipines, Futch would always reply that he merely wanted his fighter to see his own kids grow up some day.
As his wife, manager and mother of his child, it now falls to Cheryl McCullough to tell her husband that his time is up. Time for them to start the next chapter of their life together. While he still has his health.

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