By Jay Mwamba
Wayne McCullough has parted company with trainer Thel Torrance, ahead of his scheduled clash with Prince Naseem Hamed now set for Atlantic City on Oct. 31. The Belfastman’s career will now be guided by Kenny Croom, a 43-year-old ex-welterweight and Torrance protégé.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s former World supermiddleweight champion, Steve Collins, is said to be ready to end his almost year-long retirement and is trying to line up a fight with WBC light-heavyweight champ Roy Jones.
"I have always said a fight with Jones would get me back in the ring," Collins said. "I have tried all sorts of approaches, but he has been avoiding me. I would take an eliminator if I was guaranteed a shot at Jones after that."
If a fight with the Florida-based Jones was ever fixed, the 34-year-old Collins would have to move up a weight. "A fight with Jones would motivate me for a comeback, so I’ll give it one more try," Collins said.
For his part, McCullough, who has signed his end of the contract for the World Boxing Organization featherweight challenge against Hamed and is now waiting for the flamboyant Englishman to do likewise, said he regrets Torrance’s departure, but doesn’t expect it to harm his career.
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"I didn’t want to split with Thel, but it was his choice," McCullough, who had worked with Torrance since turning pro six years ago, said in Las Vegas last Friday. "But it’s probably good for me because I’ll now get all the attention from my new trainer," he added, hinting to Torrance’s other commitments to his stable of fighters as being a reason for their split.
Croom is no stranger to the McCullough corner. He joined the original team of the venerable Eddie Futch and Torrance in training the former Olympic silver medalist after McCullough had won the World Boxing Council bantamweight title in July 1995.
After Futch’s retirement two years, Croom, who was trained by Torrance in his fighting days, become Torrance’s assistant.
"He’s been in my corner from my first world title defense (against in Johnny Bredahl in Belfast back in December 1995) and trained me for a few fights by himself," McCullough said.
And there’s unlikely to be any change in McCullough’s aggressive, relentless style under Croom.
"He trains me the same way as Thel, they’re from the same school — hold your hands high and slip punches," the fighter said, adding, "that’s the way I’ll need to fight against Naseem."
McCullough, 22-1 (14 KO’s) as a pro, is training twice a day in his bid to upset the explosive punching Hamed and capture a second world championship.
But he wasn’t too elated to hear that the fight had been switched from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, even though this could mean a huge turnout of his fans from the East Coast’s many Irish communities.
"I’d have preferred Las Vegas because I’m based there and haven’t had a big fight there," McCullough said. "If not here, then Madison Square Garden, because there’re a lot of Irish [in New York] and it’s a good place for big fights."
The McCullough-Hamed match will be part of an HBO doubleheader on the boardwalk. It will be preceded by a world junior featherweight title contest between American Danny Romero and holder Vuyani Bungu of South Africa.