It's been a long and winding road for former WBC bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough (27-7), but the Pocket Rocket, who fought for the first and only time in New York on March 18, 1993, will lace his gloves up in the Big Apple again on March 16 in the co-main event at Erin Go Brawl II. "I was asked to be on the card and being a free agent at the moment without a promoter, and it was easy for me to say yes," McCullough told the Irish Voice Monday night, adding that the fight would be between super bantamweight and featherweight but his goal was to remain at super bantamweight. Irish Ropes President Eddie McLoughlin, who put McCullough on the card, said this of his decision to do so, "We want to put on a stellar show and Wayne is a former world champion and Olympic silver medalist." An opponent for McCullough has yet to be confirmed. McCullough can't wait to fight again in the city. "Getting back in the ring on the East Coast is where I want to be. I've been asking my promoters over the years to fight me in New York. I fought my second pro fight in March of 1993 in the Theater in MSG, so I am back there 16 years later," said the 38-year-old. McCullough, who always stays in shape, is training twice a day in the gym and has been sparring in recent weeks with former super bantamweight Clarence "Bones" Adams. He is confident he will be in excellent shape come fight night. The Las Vegas-based Belfast native last fought in June when he retired on his stool after six rounds against Juan Ruiz - his first fight in three years - and admits he should never have participated that night due to a back injury he sustained in training four weeks before the bout. "I was on a doctor's table two days before the fight and he wanted me to pull out of the fight. The promoter of the fight thought otherwise, and he put it to me that I had to take the fight or else," continued McCullough. "I took the fight and paid the price, but that is behind me and thank God no injuries now." Does McCullough, who had been in with a laundry list of Hall of Fame bound fighters, see this fight as a swan song? "Well, I think at this stage of my career every fight is a swan song! You take one fight at a time. I'm like Bernard Hopkins. I stay in shape all the time and I can go on, but what I want to do and what God wants me to do are two different things. Whenever I can't cope with the sparring and the training is when I'll know how far I can go on." But how much punishment can a man take? McCullough has been in many wars and taken more than his fair share of punishment over the years. In October 2000 a cyst was discovered on his brain and the British Board of Boxing revoked his license. They overturned the decision two years later after McCullough's medical team argued that he had the cyst since birth and that it was located between the brain and the skull. But why go on, and what does he say to those who think he is risking more than just a loss every time he steps in the ring? "I love to fight. I know I haven't taken any permanent damage from fighting in the ring for 31 years. If I slipped in any way, my wife, who is my manager, would see it, but I haven't slipped, I know I haven't," he says. "I've sparred with world champion boxers, and I've had great spars. If I was being beaten up by ordinary guys, ordinary guys in the gym, I wouldn't even consider stepping back in there. "I might lose a fight, but I am not stupid either. As I always say to my wife, 'It's okay to talk to yourself, but when you find you start answering yourself then you are in trouble!'" McCullough was training about five fighters at one time, but learned his first lesson as a trainer the hard way by not having contracts with fighters and ending up out of pocket. Though he says it left a bitter taste in the mouth, he has not ruled out training boxers down the line. He still works for the Ultimate Fighting Championship in a promotional capacity (he is a long time friend of UFC president Dana White) and says that the UFC treat him excellently and offers him a chance to travel the world with his family promoting the sport. He heads to London this week to do some more PR for the fight company.
The Irish pub that became home base for 9/11 ground zero rescuers