Not since European champion and World title challenger Charlie Nash defeated Frank McCord in the Guildhall in September 1982 has Derry played host to a pro boxing event.
However, Seamus Cunning, who manages Derry’s Sean McGlinchy and works closely with McCullagh believes the time is ripe and the talent is there – including the Florida-based Connor Coyle – to end a 36 year wait.
Speaking at a press conference held in Derry ahead of ‘White Chocolate’ and Mummy’s Bhoy’s’ Belfast’s fights this Friday, Cunning feels it could be step one along the road back to Derry.
McCullagh [11(6)-0] boxes BBBoC English super bantamweight champion Josh Kennedy [11(5)-0] on top of a BoxNation-broadcast card.
A win for the BBBoC Celtic champion would see him claim the WBO European rankings belt and Cunning believes champion status would draw a Derry crowd.
“This is stage one in our bid to bring professional boxing to the city,” he said.
“I’d like to think when Tyrone McCullagh wins the European title on Friday, we could secure a top show in Derry within 12 months featuring all three of the city’s professional boxers.”
Between McCullagh, Coyle [8(3)-0], and McGlinchey [2(0)-0] – not to mention a raft of fighters from neighbouring Donegal – a card in the Maiden City would seem to be an attractive proposition.
It’s not as if Derry has been ever short of popular or successful punchers. While John Duddy mainly operated in America, he did return home on occasion but not to his home town.
Former Amir Khan foe and another European champion, Paul McCloskey, sold out the Odyssey in Belfast when he was continental champion and topped bills in Letterkenny.
McCloskey was also on the scene the same time as Eamon O’Kane, who reached world level and won Prizefighter.
At that time, Derry was a place promoters were willing, even keen, to visit but the British Boxing Board of Control won’t sanction a pro boxing promotion in Derry due to health and safety regulations.
With the city slightly too far, by a matter of minutes, from the nearest neurological unit in Northern Ireland, and the BBBofC blocking a cross-border or helicopter solution, a fight night is currently not possible.
The suggestions are the A6 Dungiven to Drumahoe works could solve the issue as it would make the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast more accessible. However, it has to be noted those plans are not expected to be finished for another four years.
Regardless, McGlinchy who makes his return to the ring this weekend is excited by the prospect.
“You chat about Eamonn O’Kane and Paul McCloskey from county Derry but I can’t remember when you last had two professional boxers from the city boxing on the same card,” said McGlinchey, who has been especially vocal about bringing boxing back to his hometown.
“There’s a big push to bring professional boxing to the city. The only thing holding it back is the distance to a neurological unit. It’s the only blocking point. It’s only 10 minutes out and if they make that up with these new roads then you could well see myself, Tyrone and Connor all boxing in the city together.”
“Tyrone is fighting for a [WBO] European title already in Belfast. It’s great for him but it’s sad he has to take it in Belfast.”
With the A6 still years from completion, the option of neighbouring Letterkenny has continually been floated.
The Donegal town last hosted boxing in 2010, with McCloskey topping a bill at the Letterkenny Leisure Complex where he defended his European title versus Scot Barry Morrisson.
It has to be noted though that, were this to be the case, McCullagh would be unable to feature due to his management outfit’s self-imposed exile from the Republic of Ireland.