McCullough's career in doubt
By Brian Doogan
Wayne McCullough was facing the end of his career when the British Boxing
Board of Control ordered the cancellation of his homecoming fight in Belfast
after he failed a routine brain scan.
The former WBC world bantamweight title-holder was due to fight Hungarian
champion Sandor Koczak at the Ulster Hall in preparation for a proposed
challenge to IBF featherweight champion Paul Ingle.
But an MRI scan revealing a 2cm cyst on the 30-year-old Irishman's brain
meant board secretary, Simon Block, was forced to inform the Belfast
promoters that it would not sanction the 10-round bout.
In a dramatic twist, a separate brain scan performed yesterday at the
Tallaght Hospital outside Dublin revealed no irregularities. McCullough
insisted that he would never climb into a ring if he was considered unfit by
the authorities but expressed his confusion over the differing results of
the two scans.
"I just don't know which scan to believe," said McCullough, beaten on points
by Naseem Hamed in a WBO world featherweight title challenge two years ago
and by fierce Mexican puncher Erik Morales in his last fight.
"One scan, which I still haven't seen, supposedly shows a two-centimetre
cyst on my brain. A doctor in Dublin gave me the all-clear. "I don't know
where I stand. My health is obviously the most important thing. I will
return to America next week and hopefully get everything clarified over
there. If there's anything life-threatening then I should be in the
"But at this moment I just don't know the truth."
However Spencer Oliver, who suffered a subdural haematoma in a European
super-bantamweight title defence against Ukrainian Sergei Devakov in May
1998, has urged McCullough to hang up his gloves immediately.
That Oliver survived at all is down to the emergency surgery subsequently
performed at the National Neurological Hospital in London and he said: "It's
a warning sign and Wayne has to heed it. There should be no doubt in his
head. It's time to get out.
"Wayne has been a world champion. He's realised his dream. He can look back
on his career and be proud. But he needs now to think of the future, think
about his family, his lovely little kid. Does he want to have her possibly
grow up without a daddy?
"God forbid the fight had gone ahead and something had happened to him.
Boxing is your life as a professional fighter but there's still life after
He added: "Wayne's a warrior. He's never been in an easy fight. He's fought
real big punchers in Hamed, Morales and many others.
"But his warrior days are over. He should count himself fortunate that he
found out this way rather than something terrible happened to him in the
middle of a fight."
The Las Vegas-based Irishman's powers of resistance and recovery against the
withering power of the likes of Hamed and Morales gained him the reputation
of possessing the best chin in boxing. As an amateur or professional he has
never been knocked off his feet, much less stopped.
"It probably is mad to invite the kind of punishment and pain I have
sustained during my career," he said recently, his gentle demeanour belying
the Samson-like qualities he has consistently been able to summon.
"My wife, Cheryl, always says that I have an evil eye when I'm in the ring.
But it's more than that. It is a sense of invulnerability, an absolute
belief that I cannot be beaten. I'm the type of guy who goes in to win all
his fights. You would have to kill me to stop me when I'm in battle."
However, even a body as extraordinary as McCullough's can only take so much.