By Jay Mwamba
University of California-Los Angeles medical experts have cleared Wayne McCullough to resume his boxing career after a thorough examination of the cyst in his head.
"It was a long time coming," a relieved McCullough said in an interview with the Echo from his Las Vegas home last week.
And, according to the former World Boxing Council bantamweight champion, the British Boxing Board of Control’s medical consultant, Dr. Peter Richards of Oxford University, has also described the cyst as non-threatening.
McCullough said U.S. doctors who had analyzed MRI scans of the cyst — reported to be in the space between the brain and the skull on the left side of his head — concluded that it posed no risk to his health.
"They said the risk was insignificant as long as I got MRI scans after each fight," McCullough said. "They looked at the 1995 scan and saw that it [the cyst] was the same size. It hasn’t grown. They said it was probably there at birth."
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McCullough said the two primary consulting medical officials were Dr. Jay Bentson, chief neurologist at UCLA, and Dr. Neil Martin, who the fighter was told is the best sports neurologist in the United States. The latter also gave the boxer a battery of physical and mental tests, which the Belfastman said he passed with flying colors.
"He told me that I’m a fit healthy, young man, which was very nice, since I’m 30 years old," McCullough said, chuckling.
The super bantamweight’s career was thrown in doubt last October when a MRI before a scheduled non-title bout with Hungarian champion Sandor Koczek in Belfast revealed what appeared to be a cyst on his brain.
However, McCullough said that he’d been informed last week that Dr. Richards in Oxford has discounted that initial scan, after studying it on behalf of the BBBC.
"Richards said the only risk I face is exactly the same as any other fighter that steps in the ring. I was concerned that I had a risk [the cyst] on top of another risk [boxing]," McCullough said.
With that scare out of the way, McCullough now faces some routine administrative hearings to get his license back in both Nevada and Britain. He then hopes to fight again next March.
With a record of 23-3 since turning pro eight years ago, McCullough has fought some of the best fighters of his generation, from bantamweight to featherweight.
Renowned for his high work rate, which earned him the nickname "Pocket Rocket," and a granite chin, his three defeats were all close and disputed decisions to greats Daniel Zaragoza, Prince Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales.
McCullough was a silver medallist at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and later held the World Boxing Council bantamweight crown from 1995 until ’97 when he relinquished it to move up to super bantamweight.