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Gary Cully eyeing former World Champions as he battles to get what he deserves in boxing

WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney has faced veterans Jorge Linares and Yuriorkis Gamboa in his two most recent fights and world title hopeful Gary Cully believes that he should be facing that sort of level of opposition in the near future to move into position for a shot at top honours.

The Naas lightweight boxes in just his third ten-rounder this Friday night in Bolton but feels he will be ready soon to take on opposition that have had over twenty world title contests between them.

Cully [12(6)-0] faces Romanian Viorel Simion [22(9)-5(2)] at the Bolton Whites Hotel following a far from perfect build-up but is still confident of catching the eye once again in what has been described as a showcase fight. Then, things will start to get very serious for the WBO-ranked #12 fighter in the world.

This particular #MTKFightNight was only announced on June 10th and while there had previously been murmurings of an appearance, Cully and his team were not expecting to feature. However, after many jigs, plenty of reels, and a condensed ‘camp’ which highlighted the benefit of always being ready, ‘The Diva’ will hit the stage on Friday.

In a special extended interview, Cully explained to Irish-Boxing.com how “it’s not ideal preparations but I’m always of the mentality that you should always be ready. I’d feel like I’d let myself down if I didn’t fight but we have to sit back and do what’s right for my career in the long-term.”

“I was told June 25th, going back a couple of months, but then we were struggling to find opponents and stuff like that. I didn’t know if we were going to find one.”

“I took a week off last week – three weeks out – because I wasn’t sparring – we don’t spar unless I have an opponent. Then I was told we’d found an opponent so I was back in the gym, couple of spars, and I’ll be good to go.”

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When this particular interview took place, Cully was pencilled in for a fight with a grizzled Italian – who himself was a replacement for a higher-profile opponent that had pulled out to take a bigger fight. In the end, Simion is the fifth opponent that has been lined up for Cully.

The 39-year-old Athens Olympian has, of course, seen better days – beating EU champion Andoni Gago and giving Scott Quigg and Lee Selby all they could handle. That all was down at featherweight and the long and strong Cully should have too much of everything for the Romanian road fighter at this stage. A seventh-round stoppage loss versus Ukrainian lightweight contender Denys Berinchyk is a nice yardstick for Cully who has a chance to look good against a fighter with name recognition.

The Kildare southpaw is into a new stage in his career. Last time out his second-round stoppage of Kazakh Victor Kotochigov saw him pick up the WBO European rankings belt, a spot in the organisation’s Top 15, and a viral video.

“I think everybody in Ireland has seen that video at some stage,” laughs Cully. “People were stopping me on the street and saying ‘what’s your name? Oh yeah, I saw that video of you’.”

The Sarto stylist has seen his stock rise in real time as he’s gone through his four years and twelve fights as a pro thus far and notes how “there’s definitely more buzz about and I think people kind of respect you a little more.”

“Everybody goes pro, and I’m not saying anybody, but it’s quite easy to get to 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. When I was calling out names at 1-0 and 2-0 nobody was really listening to me because you’ve to go and prove yourself.”

“I think I’ve been in the lion’s den with Joe Fitzpatrick, dealt with the occasion, my first big fight, obviously knocked him out in the first, and then stepped up again and fought Kotochigov, did the same to him in the second round. I think people are starting to believe me a little bit more and I’m starting to get the respect I think I deserve and people are starting to realise that I’m a force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division.”

While he is most definitely on the up – and extremely highly-rated by those ‘in the game’ – the 25-year-old perhaps isn’t as big as he should be.

It should be noted that he didn’t make the complaint himself but, fourth from the top on a YouTube-streamed bill does not tally up with the talents of Cully who is yet to fight on a major televised bill despite impressing Eddie Hearn greatly back in 2017. The example of the Jake and Logan Paul and other number of YouTubers is easy to trot out but there are also plenty of ‘real’ boxers who are the opposite of Cully – possessing big profiles that perhaps don’t line up with their boxing abilities

It does frustrate the European Youth gold medallist, but the time will come soon for one of, if not Ireland’s best, prospect.

Cully notes how “there’s lads on these big Top Rank shows and on Fight Camp that get opportunities because of who they are or because of a social media following. Of course it’s frustrating but that’s the game as well and we have to go with the times and learn that that is the way that the game is going.”

“People want entertainment. Like, the Paul Brothers, you can say they’re bad for boxing but they’re entertaining people, they’re in people’s faces, and they’re getting the sport of boxing out there.”

“Obviously, for my own career, it’s a little bit frustrating seeing people I believe I’m a lot better than and I know I’m a lot better than getting slots that I believe I should be getting. But I just worry about myself and stick to my game and I believe the time will come and when it does come it will be worth it in the end.”

With no ‘beefs’ on the table, Cully wants tough developmental fights and already has some big names in mind.

Venezuelan Linares [47(29)-6(5)] and Cuban Gamboa [30(18)-4(3)] may be 35 and 39 respectively but they would tick a lot of boxes for Cully who is keen to go through the Boxing 101 checklist.

The lilywhite outlines how “I’m a fighter and I’d take a world title fight in the morning but this is where management comes in and the business side of boxing and all these sorts of things. I would like, in the next couple of fights, say, a Linares, Gamboa, type of fight.”

“Am I ready for that type of fight right now? Probably not. These guys have been at world level for years and they’ve proven themselves – I’ve had two ten-round fights in my career, one went in the first and the other went in the second.”

“I’m learning to deal with the occasion, with the dressing room, and the big fights, and the pressure, but I’m not learning much in the ring because I’m not spending enough time in the ring to learn. I probably need a tough ten-round fight where I go the distance and I can’t get the guy out of there.”

“Now, if the knockouts come, I’ll keep taking them all day long, but I probably need ten rounds once or twice, to learn what it’s like to be in there, to learn what i’t like to be tired, to lose a round, and to go to Plan B if Plan A isn’t working, adapting to certain situations in the ring. Them times are coming, I just need experience-builders but, in the next one or two fights I definitely want a Linares or Gamboa type fight.”

Photo Credit: Babs Daly (IG @babsdaly)

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie