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Cocky McCullough chases WBO crown

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

American interest has been peaked as well, even though few on these shores have seen the champion fight.
The marquee name for U.S. viewers in this matchup is the challenger, whose legendary high-octane style, highlighted in battles past with greats such Erik Morales, Daniel Zaragoza and Naseem Hamed, make him a fan favorite.
The Showtime cable network will televise the fight on tape delay from Braehead Arena, where a full house is expected, beginning at 11 p.m. EST.
Casino bookies in McCullough’s adopted city of Las Vegas have the transplanted Ulsterman a slight underdog. But this should be scant solace for the 25-year-old Harrison, March having been a bad month so far for defending champs, as both heavyweights John Ruiz and Wladimir Klitschko can attest.
McCullough, at 32 the wiser and vastly more seasoned fighter, has repeatedly, to the point of irking Harrison, insisted that the champion may have bitten off more than he can chew.
“As far as comparing Harrison to other world champions I have fought, Harrison is a ‘C’ fighter,” McCullough said upon landing in Belfast two weeks ago to wind up training in his city of birth.
“Being an elite fighter, like myself, makes you an ‘A’ plus fighter. I would rate [Yaseui] Yakushiji, Hamed, Morales, Zaragoza and [Jose] Bueno ‘A’ plus fighters but Harrison is not yet an elite fighter at this point in his career,” he added, naming some of the world champions he has fought.
McCullough’s wife/manager, Cheryl, has also joined in the psychological assault on the 18-1-1 Harrison, who was workmanlike, but unspectacular, in relieving Argentine Julio Pablo Chacon of the WBO trinket on points at the same Braehead Arena last October.
“I’m just a little surprised that Harrison wants to lose his world title so quickly,” she remarked after sealing the scheduled 12-rounder with promoter Frank Warren.
Claiming that he’d been disrespected by McCullough, a ringside TV analyst at the Chacon fight that night, Harrison has for his part promised to knock out the granite-chinned Irishman, something no other boxer has accomplished before, while calling him a blown up bantamweight.
“He has physical strength but he doesn’t have big punching power and his record shows that,” McCullough, 26-3 (17 KOs), countered last week.
“His manager has [also] said that he will be the first man to stop me, but then Hamed and Morales said that and they are much harder punchers than Harrison.”
If anything, added the challenger, it is Harrison who is vulnerable for the knockout.
“Julio Chacon hurt him to the body with a left hook and if you watch his jab you can see that the way he brings it back he leaves the temple area open.
“I’ve watched him very closely and I have a game-plan to beat him. I think I can [win by knockout] in the middle rounds,” McCullough predicted.
“He has never been at this level before, and he is fighting a guy who still has something left. It is a big test for him.”
That indeed is the key to this fight.
If McCullough still has enough gas in the tank to live up to his “Pocket Rocket” nickname, Harrison, described by pundits as the best Scottish fighter in generations, will forever rue having made his first defense against the Irishman.
For the untested Harrison to retain his title, he will have to outbox a man who was a top international amateur, which could be a tall order without a hand from Father Time.
And it may well be an omen that McCullough’s last world title victory came on the road, in the defending champion’s hometown. That was in July 1985 when he outpointed Yaseui Yakushiji in Nagoya, Japan, for the WBC bantamweight belt.
McCullough’s three defeats were all in title bids in the United States, against Zaragoza, then a super bantamweight, and featherweights Hamed and Morales

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