FORMER world champion boxer Wayne McCullough says he's "saddened" he hasn't been included on a new mural on the Shankill Road in Belfast depicting local fighters.
However, organisers of the Shankill Road Boxing mural have refuted any suggestions that the “Pocket Rocket” was omitted for political reasons.
Speaking from his home in Las Vegas, McCullough said: “It’s great to see new murals appearing around the Shankill and seeing people I respect like Davy Larmour getting recognition, but I’m saddened that I have not been included.
“Whilst not surprised that I have been omitted, I am still proud to have been born on the Shankill Road.
“Although I don’t physically live on the road anymore, I visit as often as I can and work tirelessly for the friends and fans that still keep in touch with me from the area. I’ve never forgotten my roots and have made a TV programme featuring the Shankill and mentioned it in my book, so it’s all very sad.”
McCullough, who won a world title and an Olympic silver medal, was born in Percy Street in the area, and was once known as the “Shankill Samurai”.
He said he couldn’t think of any specific reason why he had been left off the artwork.
“I don’t think there is any particular reason, but if it’s some sort of political thing then they needn’t have bothered putting the mural up, they could have just left the old ones.
“I’ve always represented my country north and south, Protestant and Catholic.
“I’m a sportsman, not a politician. So if people want to drag politics into sport, that’s up to them, but you’d have to ask the people who put the murals up why they didn’t include me.”
Ian McLaughlin, of the Lower Shankill Community Association who created the mural in partnership with a local boxing club, said there was no intention to offend McCullough.
“If anyone takes the time to read this mural, they will see that it is to honour past boxers,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“We have included James Warnock, Davy Larmour and Tommy Armour dating back from 1937 to 1974/75.
“Wayne McCullough still holds a licence to fight and he is preparing for another fight very soon, so he is not a past boxer.”
When asked if there was any “political” reason behind the omission, Mr McLaughlin said: “Absolutely not. This mural has been driven by the local community and there has been no intention to offend Mr McCullough in any way.
“If and when Wayne McCullough hangs up his boxing gloves, we will put him on a future mural,” said Mr McLaughlin.
McCullough is still the only Shankill Road boxer ever to win a WBC world championship belt, which he won in Nagoya, Japan in 1995. He won his Olympic silver medal in Barcelona in Spain in 1992.