|Wayne McCullough is chasing the WBC super bantamweight championship, and as hard luck would have it, a Mexican champion stands in his way. 122-pound fighters the world over can breathe a sigh of relief that it is not Daniel Zaragoza, the man that|
owned the very same championship on and off over a ten-year period, and to this day owns a win over McCullough himself. In Zaragoza’s stead today is an equally stubborn force in the form of Oscar Larios. Fighters that defeat Larios usually get the favor repaid with interest and the fact that McCullough already has one loss to Larios does not bode well. Larios is a fighting champion and the rematch with McCullough will be his tenth defense of the championship he finally won outright by knocking Willie Jorrin out in a single round. In truth, Larios defeated McCullough handily in their first fight and spoke of offering the Irishman a rematch in Belfast not because he had a particular hankering for Guinness, but because a McCullough fight in Ireland means a packed house; you can be a great champion these days, but if you are a lighter weight champion, that does not mean you are paid handsomely for your efforts. This fight does not feel like a mission of redemption for McCullough, it is a last gasp attempt to reclaim past glories.
SaddoBoxing continues its big-fight build-up with a look at Larios-McCullough II. Don’t miss Jonny Townsend’s argument in favor of the challenger.
McCullough has perhaps the best chin in all of boxing, whether that is a good thing or not is up for question. Sure, not even some of boxing’s hardest punchers have been able to shift him before the duration. Case in point, “Prince” Hamed, and I mean the pre-meltdown “Prince.” Before Hamed changed his name from Naseem to Notseen, and when the King he would finally become was not of the burger variety, he was a rather dangerous fighter and the one that McCullough claims hit the hardest of all. McCullough also survived Erik Morales, and not the 126-130-pound “There’s something missing but I don’t know what it is” version. Morales at super bantamweight was a killer and quite frankly, in England at the time, if you were a Hamed fan, Morales was a name you did not want to hear. However, in his twelve professional years to date, McCullough has taken more shots than a gangster rapper’s entourage and it is starting to show.
McCullough is notoriously well conditioned, which means that he is well prepared to stay upright for his beating as demonstrated in his drubbing against Scott Harrison. Larios also comes to fight in excellent condition and appropriately enough, his fights, especially in championship company, often go the distance. Before the final bell arrives though, Larios’s difficult style and fantastic work-rate more than suffice for the lack of poise and grace the spectacle of his fights yield. At thirty-four, and with the nagging bind of all those years of punishment, brain scan controversies and the inevitability of dulling reflexes, I cannot see how McCullough can dredge up a winning performance against a champion as willful and overpowering in consistency as Larios. In the end, the champion will prove to be too young, too strong, awkward and insistent with his combination punching for McCullough who will achieve some small token by ending the fight on his feet. And truly, when that happens, it should mean that McCullough ends his career on his feet, a champion unbowed but a fighter of championship consequence no more.
What do you reckon Jonny?
There's plenty you can say about Wayne McCullough, both good and bad. Wayne represented the United Kingdom in Barcelona, 1992 and came away with a bantamweight silver medal in the same Olympics that saw Michael Carruth win Gold in the welterweight division. McCullough’s victory was an incredible feat for a nation that had won no boxing medals for thirty-six years. This gets a little murky as Wayne is both British and Irish â€“ as many of us feel we are.
A very smart man, in and out of the ring, McCullough - guided by “The World’s Most Dedicated Manager” Cheryl, Wayne realized that his best chances of success came with major sacrifices so he moved his family 5,000 miles to Las Vegas and began his career “U.S.” style while Carruth followed the U.K. route of tried and tested trial-horses. Sixteen fights and a world of experience later, the “Pocket Rocket” traveled to Nagoya, Japan and won the WBC bantamweight belt with a superb display of jabbing and boxing.
McCullough made only two defenses of that belt before moving up and losing to the evergreen, and uniquely featured, Daniel “El Raton” Zaragoza. The mouse squeaked out a very close decision to give the Irishman his first loss and two wins later, he fought UK/Yemeni phenom, Naseem Hamed. A closer than expected loss pushed Wayne into a fight with Erik Morales and that close, but losing, contest resulted in more reversals to Scott “Twice Your Size” Harrison and then an unexpected heroic battle with the ultra-tough, Oscar Larios- WBC super bantamweight champion. Nobody expected Wayne to last more than five rounds, let alone give the Mexican punch-fighter a twelve-round tussle.
Most think that at age thirty-five, Wayne is past it, but his style is not the usual one for a lighter weight opponent. McCullough trades on his tough chin but learns from each defeat and his victor’s read like a list of who's who of the 118 to 130-pound divisions from the last ten years. While most think that the impressive Larios will wear down Wayne, I will go for the Celtic hero to outsmart the champion over the twelve round period. Oscar can fight, but Wayne learnt from their February encounter and will dominate the return, using his considerable skills to capture a second world title.
By the way, McCullough is the best young writer on the scene today (not writing for SaddoBoxing.com) and also, the friendliest man in the pugilistic scene. We're both from the British Isles, but now live only 300 miles apart in the west of the U.S.A. and I hope that I can tale this champ out for a cheeky half one day. Wayne, I'm always available so send me a message when you become a two-time champion.
Jim Cawkwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonny Townsend can be reached at email@example.com