By Jay Mwamba
With all the obstacles to the full resumption of his career finally cleared, boxer Wayne McCullough is looking at a brief buildup to another world title shot.
The former WBC bantamweight champion, however, hints at retirement if unsuccessful in his latest title bid, after being cleared on both sides of the Atlantic to box following a health scare.
McCullough, who turned 32 two weeks ago, hopes to get a crack at the WBO featherweight crown, which titlist Julio Pablo Chacon is scheduled to defend against Scott Harrison early next year.
“I’d rather fight for the super bantamweight [title] first, but I’m still strong at featherweight,” McCullough, who is also in line for Willie Jorrin’s 122-pound WBC belt, said.
He hopes to position himself for either title challenge by raking up two or three wins over decent opposition, starting with his maiden bout for his new promoter, Frank Warren, in Britain on Sept. 21.
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“I was hoping that it would be Aug. 17 in Cardiff,” McCullough said of his next fight, in an interview from his Las Vegas home. “But it will possibly be on Sept. 21 in Manchester, on a Ricky Hatton card.
“I’ll probably fight two or three 10-round fights against decent opponents to get the rust off. After that, I’ll see what I can do.”
He expressed frustration at the stalls in his career caused first by managerial woes with the defunct America Presents, and then the brouhaha over a cyst detected near his brain before a non-title bout in Belfast in October 2000.
Although exhaustive neurological tests in the United States eventually cleared McCullough to resume his career here, the British Boxing Board of Control, which also has jurisdiction over the fighter’s Belfast hometown, refused to license him until last month.
“I should have been retired by now,” McCullough, a silver medallist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, said. “I’ve been a professional for nine years but only fought for five years.
“Within the year if nothing [happens] I’ll give it up. If I win the world title I’ll hold onto it for two years and defend it.”
McCullough, who is 24-3 (15 KOs), said his comeback victory over Alvin Brown last January, after a 27-month layoff, was important for him. He scored an impressive second-round KO over Brown in Las Vegas.
“But I’ve had two fights fall through since,” he added.
If there’s any consolation to the long disruptions in his career, it’s the rest that the interruptions have afforded him.
“I’m still fresh, I haven’t taken any punishment, and I’ve stayed active in the gym, which is the major part,” he said.
Since turning pro, 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 held the World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight crown from 1995 until ’97, when he relinquished it to move up to super bantamweight.