By Jay Mwamba
Ending a 10-year stay in Las Vegas that saw him lift the world bantamweight crown under the tutelage of one of boxing’s greatest trainers, Wayne McCullough returns to his native Belfast Aug. 15 to continue his career closer to home soil.
The 32-year-old, who has two fights penciled in, on Sept. 14 in London and Oct. 5 in Glasgow, by new promoter Frank Warren, has put his 3,000-square-foot house in Las Vegas on the market for $459,000 and hopes to have a buyer soon.
“It’s too big to keep,” he said last Sunday of the property, which comes with an air-conditioned gym complete with a full-size ring.
He is, however, keeping his options open.
“I plan on buying a smaller place or townhouse,” McCullough said. “I’ve been here 10 years and you get used to the lifestyle. I may come back.”
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Asked why he’d decided to return home now, McCullough said, “I came to America to be with Eddie Futch, and now Eddie’s gone, and believe me he’s well missed.”
Regarded as one of the top trainers of all time, Futch, who died in October last year at age 90, was McCullough’s first handler when the 1992 Olympic Games silver medallist turned pro in 1992. The “Pocket Rocket” became one of the legendary trainer’s last world champions when he decisioned Yashuei Yakushiji in Japan on July 30, 1995 to win the WBC 118-pound title.
Heavyweights Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Trevor Berbick, Michael Spinks, and Riddick Bowe, as well as light heavyweight Bob Foster, light middleweight Mike McCallum, and lightweight Alexis Arguello are some of the illustrious prizefighters that Futch trained.
McCullough said he’d learned from Futch and current trainer Kenny Croom, a Futch protTgT, how to keep in top physical condition all the time. While in Belfast, he said, he would need the services of the Vegas-based Croom only in the last few weeks before a fight.
He is excited by the immediate prospect of fighting back-to-back fights after the stall in his career caused by managerial woes and the scare of a cyst in his head that sidelined him for 27 months.
“That’s what I want. I just want to stay active,” he said.
Being home will also give McCullough, a former amateur superstar, a chance to give back to Irish boxing.
“I’ll work with fighters, both professional and amateurs, in Ireland and teach them the American way of fighting and bring them over here (the U.S.) each year,” he said. “My training techniques are Eddie’s techniques.”
McCullough, who is managed by his wife, Cheryl, was recently cleared by the British Boxing Board of Control to fight under its jurisdiction (which includes Northern Ireland) after the controversy over the cranial cyst.
His Sept. 14 bout, against an opponent to be named later this week, will be televised live from London’s York Hall on the Showtime cable network’s “Shobox” series that highlights upcoming young talent.