By Jay Mwamba
Former World Boxing Council bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough has been relicensed by the British Boxing Board of Control.
The decision effectively ends BBBC opposition to McCullough’s return to the ring in Belfast and other parts of the British Isles, which began in October 2000 when a cyst was detected near his brain before a non-title bout in Belfast.
Although exhaustive neurological tests in the United States eventually gave the Las Vegas-based Ulsterman a clean bill of health and cleared him to resume his career States-side, the BBBC had adamantly refused to relicense McCullough until now.
Said his new promoter Frank Warren in London last week: “I am delighted that Wayne has been given a license to box in Britain.
“As I stated before, I would not have got involved with Wayne if I had any doubts that he was at greater risk than any other fighter. I will now be looking to feature him in August when he will make his debut under the Sports Network banner and we have some big plans for him in the future.”
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In Las Vegas, McCullough’s wife and manager, Cheryl, said that there is no confirmed date or opponent for her husband’s next fight.
“But if it’s on the [WBO super-middleweight champion Joe] Calzaghe card, it will be on Aug. 17 in Cardiff,” she said.
McCullough, who has remained in training throughout the saga, described his reaction when he heard news of the BBBC’s decision from Cheryl last week.
“I just said, ‘Thank God it’s over,’ ” he told BBC Sport. “I wasn’t really happy because it’s been such a long process. I’m still a little angry because I gave the evidence before but didn’t get the license.”
As recently as last month, the Belfast-born prizefighter’s maiden bout under Warren fell through in Glasgowafter the BBBC’s kept dragging its feet on his status.
“I could have got the license then to but for some reason the authorities let it drag out,” the 31-year-old McCullough, who is 24-3 (15 KOs) said.
“Last year, I was supposed to fight for the world title in Dublin but television wouldn’t touch me because I didn’t have a license. It’s cost me a lot of money, but I’ve got to put all that behind me now and look forward.”
Last January, McCullough ended a 27-month layoff that followed the discovery of the harmless cyst in his head with a spectacular second round KO over Kansas City featherweight Alvin Brown in Las Vegas.
He is now being linked with a possible bout against the winner of the upcoming WBO featherweight title match between champion Julio Pablo Chacon and Scott Harrison.
There has also been talk of him challenging WBC super bantamweight titlist Willie Jorrin.
“Whatever path Frank Warren leads me to, I’ll go down it,” McCullough said. “I just want to stay active. Get two or three fights and then a big fight for a world title.
“But the really great thing is that I’m going to be able to fight in Belfast again which will be a dream come true for me.”
Since turning pro 10 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 1997 when he relinquished it to move up to super bantamweight.