EXCITING Derry southpaw, Tyrone McCullagh’s preparation for his first headline fight as a professional hasn’t come without its troubles.
Two changes of opponent at the final hour left the Glen native fearing the worst, frustrated and anxious that he’d be left fighting another journeyman and therefore short-changing his loyal band of supporters.
Ecuador super-bantamweight, Jefferson Vargas experienced visa difficulties and was forced to pull out of the fight and McCullagh admits he lost his motivation for what was expected to be the biggest night of his professional career.
“I got a call this morning (Thursday) to tell me my opponent had visa trouble and couldn’t get over and, to be honest, my motivation just went,” he explained.
“I just thought they were going to get some bum in again and I was thinking; ‘how could I expect people to come down and buy tickets off me all the time when I’m just fighting people who aren’t putting on much of a fight?’
However, those fears were quickly banished when his management team secured the unbeaten German prospect, Tom Tran (6-0) with the unexpected possibility of a title fight on the line and, suddenly, the motivation was back.
But once again ‘White Chocolate’ learned his opponent had pulled out despite having agreed terms.
With the hunt on for a credible replacement, British Boxing Board of Control Area super flyweight champion, Craig Derbyshire (5-20-3) stepped up to the challenge. The 26 year-old Doncaster native has been stopped just twice in 28 fights and upset previously undefeated prospect Anthony Smith to win the BBBoC title.
Facing arguably his toughest opponent to date with the extra pressure of headlining the ‘Danger at the Devenish’ bill in his first eight rounder, he’d be forgiven for feeling anxious but McCullagh thrives on these sort of challenges.
His training camp has been his best to date as he prepares to showcase his skills in front of a packed Devenish Complex.
I’ve a lot more motivation, I’m training harder than ever, I’m fitter than ever and I’ve put more rounds in than I’ve ever done before. I’m raring to go.Tyrone McCullagh
It’s a mark of how far he’s come since turning pro on July 2015 as he tops the Ginley Promotion show in Belfast tomorrow night (Saturday) - a card which features several Belfast boxers. And he’s determined to give punters value for money.
“I’m a Derry lad fighting in Belfast with a lot of Belfast fighters and they’re giving me a chance to headline. I must be doing something right and I’m delighted.
“I’ve no doubt in my mind I’m going to win and become 8-0 but I can’t be too complacent. It’s a great venue. I like the Devenish,” he continued. “It would be similar to the Delacroix in Derry. The atmosphere will be great and there’s a great squad coming down from Derry. There should be a lot of noise made so hopefully they’re in for a great night.
“Headlining does put a bit of extra pressure on me but that’s what boxing’s all about. That’s where I want to be so I’m just looking forward to getting in there now and hopefully doing the business.
“The pressure is on. I’m the headline act and people are coming to see me so I do want to put on a show and win impressively.
“But getting the win is the main thing. I’ve trained for it, left no stone unturned so there’s no reason why I can’t perform.”
In his last fight McCullagh outpointed Jose Aguilar at the Odysessy Arena in the opening bout of the night but this time round he’s the main attraction and he acknowledges the need to put on a show.
“Nobody likes a boring fight and especially not a headline fight, but as I’ve said, I’ve done the work, I’m ready to go, and if I preform on the night then I have no doubt it should be an entertaining performance.
“I don’t know if the extra motivation came from being headline act but I do think it’s the best shape I’ve ever been in physically. I’ve sparred nearly twice as much as I’ve sparred in previous camps so there’s no excuse not to do the business in there.
“I’ve a lot more motivation, I’m training harder than ever, I’m fitter than ever and I’ve put more rounds in than I’ve ever done before. I’m raring to go.”
Should he impress tomorrow night and take his pro record to 8-0, McCullagh is hoping to be back in the ring before the end of the year to set himself up for a huge 2018 where he’s expecting to challenge for major honours.
“Hopefully I can push on from here and get another fight before the end of the year and next year push on for major titles. I want to win at least a British, European title maybe who knows even a world, One step at a time. we’ll see how it goes.”
Also featuring on the ‘Danger in the Devenish’ card tomorrow night will be Stevie Collins Jr, Sean Turner, Marco McCullough, Davey Oliver Joyce, Gary Cully, Steven Ward, and Anto Upton.
Tickets are still available. Contact the Tyrone McCullagh Facebook page for more detailsor telephone 07803799537.