The fact people assumed he’d thrown in the towel hurt Tyrone McCullagh [14(6)-1(0)] the most.
There is only one thing worse than defeat for a boxer and that’s being precieved a quitter.
In fact such an issue is it for fighters, that when ‘White Chocolate’ was waiting for the British Boxing Board of Control to confirm whether or not he could ever fight again, his primary concern was whether or not he appeared like he had given up.
The BBBofC found temporary issue with the 30-year-old’s brain scan – issues which have since been resolved – not long after McCullagh had suffered a first career defeat at the gloves of Ryan Walsh in the Golden Contract semi-final.
The Derry favourite was already suffering the ill effects of his first career defeat, was stuck in career limbo and may have been forced to retire. However, during that period fighter’s pride meant his image as a fighter was right up there on his list of concerns.
“It’s hard to describe,” he responds when probed about his feelings at the time.
“It was very difficult and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The worst thing was I knew how it looked, it looked like I’d just took one defeat and said fu ck it, but that’s not me,” he continues before describing the torture that is boxing limbo.
“And then the wait on the result because of covid I think it was 3-4 months and you’re sort of in limbo, do I keep training? Do I start looking for jobs?”
It got to a stage where the boxing nurse was preparing for the worst possible outcome, although he wonders if he had been told he had to hang them up how he would have reacted.
“It was a big worry, you do something your whole life and all of a sudden it can just be gone like that. It’s scary and something you don’t really think about until it happens to you.
“I’d told myself I was prepared for the worst news but it’s one thing saying that getting it could have been a whole different story. But thankfully it didn’t come to that.”
It wasn’t just the threat of retirement over McCullagh’s head that hurt, he also had to deal with basically being unemployed for over a year.
“I’ve a new found hatred for it never mind appreciation, no joking I still love it but it can be the worst sport in the world if things aren’t going your way,” he continues.
“You know that’s 16 months on the sidelines without a payday! If a footballer is injured and is out for a year or so they’re still getting a wage. This isn’t the case in boxing. Plus you have to keep training during all this and pay for your digs, food, travel etc. You need to be very mentally tough but in the same breath I do because it has made me realise fights are never guaranteed and you have to be ready.”
That desire to stay ready has meant the notorious weight cut merchant may have his easiest ever fight week in terms of cutting. In fact, he suggests for the first time in his career he will be able to go to sleep outside of a sauna and without dreaming of a curry chip as he closes in on a fight.
“Normally if I’d of got two weeks notice for a fight, I’d be moving into a sauna and pulling my mickey to the thought of a curry chip. But that’s not the case this time I’ve been ready for quite some time now and I’m making the weight handy enough, well handy enough for me.”
When you hear McCullagh discuss weight, sauna, and fast food you know he is most certainly back. The southpaw fights on tomorrow’s MTK Fight Night in Bolton alongside Gary Cully and Pierce O’Leary and admits he goes into his fight with Brett ‘The Threat’ Fideo a bit nervous.
“It feels great , a bit surreal it’s been that long! And there’s an extra bit of more nerves than normal as well but that’s to be expected.”
Fideo has lost over 40 fights but has upsets on his record and is known for bringing it every time he steps in the ring – and McCullagh, who agreed to fight undefeated Jacob Robinson for his come back fight before injury ruled the Welsh fighter out, is expecting a tough night.
“It’ll be a tough test against Brett. He’s a lot better than his record suggests and can turn it on in some fights when he wants to. He takes rounds off everyone and has taken a lot of 0’s. I should win and get the rust off, which is badly needed. And I need to stay active afterwards. I’ll be straight back to camp.”