The Derry super bantamweight moved to 9(5)-0 on Friday night with a fifth round stoppage win of previously-undefeated German Tom Tran in the headline fight of the ‘Danger at The Devenish 2’ card.
McCullagh has been building slowly, with cancellations playing their part, but finally got to face an opponent with attacking intent on the Ginley Promotions bill.
As many had believed, an opponent coming to win would suit a former top amateur like McCullagh, and the 2010 European bronze medalist gave his strongest performance to date, dominating Tran, dropping him to the body in the fourth and finishing the job soon after.
Afterwards McCullagh described how “I’m delighted with the win. I was happy enough with my performance. It took me a round or two to get going, but I’d be like that in sparring sometimes too when it takes me a round or two to get warmed up, but once I found my range it was enjoyable.
“As this was my first real step up, I wanted to stick to my boxing skills but, when I loosened up and I started to box, I knew I was hurting him so I started to let more shots go. I wasn’t out to stop him and I would’ve liked to get a few more rounds under my belt, but you can’t complain with the stoppage either.”
“It was great experience because I was able to take a rest and step it up at times in each round, which I wasn’t able to do with people I was fighting in the past because they were just there to take punishment and I was there to unload punishment, so this was definitely a great learning experience.”
The 27 year old has big ambitions and, having appeared on the Ryan Burnett v Lee Haskins undercard, is looking towards a big fight on the next Carl Frampton undercard – which will most likely take place at the SSE Odyssey Arena next March or April.
Both of Belfast’s most recent world champions were in attendance on Friday to see McCullagh take the next step. The man himself though wants to move on as quickly as possible.
‘White Chocolate’ reasoned that “I wouldn’t quite say it was a breakthrough. That boy [Tran], he was undefeated but he was somewhere like myself, he hadn’t fought anyone of note. But he hadn’t lost a round and I stopped him.”
“It can’t hurt to have the likes of Carl [Frampton] and Ryan Burnett looking on, so I hope it puts my name on the map.
“Boxing is a short sport in terms and I’m not in it to win local titles. I want to win British and European titles and then take it from there.
“With a performance like that, I definitely think I can, but I’ll need another step up in my next fight and we’ll gauge it from there again.”
In terms of who’s next, McCullagh has a name in mind – indeed it’s a fighter that the Foylesider has been keeping tabs on all year.
“I want Joe Ham next,” he said simply.
Glasgow’s Ham [12(5)-0] is the reigning Scottish champion – and McCullagh has previously proposed a fight for the vacant BBBoC Celtic belt once held by Frampton.