Grand gesture – Debuting ‘Irish Drago’ keen to make the late great Paul McCullagh proud

Paul McCullagh’s Grandfather won’t be ringside in Wakefield tonight, but the light heavyweight remains keen to make him proud.

The Dave Coldwell-managed prospect told Irish-Boxing.com he can recall telling the well respected Belfast coach, who unfortunately is no longer with us, they would make a pro assault one day – and that he would fill him with pride.

McCullagh has held that memory with him, used it in the build up to tonight’s debut and it has proved a motivational tool.

“Turning over to the pro ranks was a childhood dream of mine and one of many things I discussed with my grandfather,” McCullagh told Irish-boxing.com.

“I can remember it like it was yesterday, telling him I’d love to make my pro debut and him to be right there with me. That feeling of making him proud, I thrived on that, it made me feel good,” he adds before revealing exactly what the respected coach would be saying in the build up to what is a highly anticipated debut.

“If he was with me today he would tell me chin down, shoulder round, pepper him with the jab, also a hurt fighter is a dangerous fighter and don’t rush it use your angles.”

Taking some of that family advice onboard and listening to the instructions of his coach Jonathan O’Brien, the Lanzarote-based puncher claims he is going to avoid big shot temptation and use his jab against Ben Thomas [2(1) -3(3)-3] tonight.

“That’s the problem with big punchers we try too hard to get the KO and then it gets sloppy.”

“I’ve been working a lot on this and I’m going to go out and enjoy my debut, get behind the jab and let the punches flow. If the knockout it comes on the back of that it comes and if it doesn’t so be, it a wins a win.”

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It’s sensible from a debutant who, thanks to the pandemic, has had extra time to work on that amateur to pro transition.

“The wait has done me the world of good and I’m happy with the fact that it gave me 10 months to train and adapt,” he explains before revealing his excitement levels.

“It’s only coming into reality now that I will be making my pro debut this weekend. I’m getting excited.”

Tonight doesn’t just see the introduction of an exciting puncher to the Irish pro scene, it will be the first night the ‘Irish Drago’ ring moniker will get an airing in the ring.

It’s not quite up there with ‘Big Sexy’, but is standout and brilliant because in true Belfast nickname fashion it fits.

Explaining how he got it McCullagh said: “For many years I’ve been getting called Drago, it’s from my amateurs boxing days. I’ve just added a little twist to it and it’s got a good ring to it.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com