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“It’s still upsetting to think that I’ll never box again’ – Tyrone McCullagh Discusses Retirement

Tyrone McCullagh had a year to come to terms with it – but that doesn’t stop it from hurting.

The Derry character officially hung up his gloves last week announcing his retirement and although he didn’t quite do it reluctantly he did it in sadness.

The fighter known for his love-hate relationship with the sport knew it was coming, in fact, he had all but made up his mind after defeat to journeyman Brett Fidoe a year ago but a long goodbye didn’t make things any easier.

“It was very hard,” he responds when asked about the act of retiring.

“It’s still upsetting to think that I’ll never box again but I’m 31, the call had to be made at some stage and I know that it was the correct call.”

Losing to Fidoe a good fighter but an opponent for the most part, prompted the BBBofC Celtic title winner to ask some serious questions of himself and all the answers suggested retirement was the best option.

It’s not that ‘White Chocoalte’ didn’t feel he could get back to a level where he could defeat the Brit or fighters of that standard, it was more he hadn’t the stomach to go through what was needed to put himself in a place to compete again. He also hadn’t the heart to go through the kind of rebuild that would have been needed after back-to-back defeats.

“The loss to Brett was the icing on the cake,” he continues. “No disrespect to Brett he’s a great guy and tough as they come but if you’re not beating him then there’s not much point. There is no point especially if you’re living away from home and putting your body through hell. I know it was an off night and it’s so disappointing that that’s how I’m leaving the sport but it was too long of a journey back for me. I’d of been fighting for nothing for a few fights then hoping to get a break down the line and to be doing that whilst living in Dublin – it just wasn’t possible,” he adds with real honesty.

As stated the tricky southpaw’s relationship with boxing was a complicated one. The self-proclaimed more handsome of the Two Tyrones had boxing inspired dark times that were so difficult they don’t allow him to see his career through rose-tintied glasses just yet.

“Overall I do,” he responds when asked if he looks back in fondness. “Boxing has enabled me to travel the world, meet some amazing people and gave me some amazing times. With that being said it’s also given me some of my worst times. It’s an unbelievably tough sport in the ring and it’s ten tougher outside the ring. The politics and the lack of guarantees would drive you insane.”

It’s honest blunt and even downbeat from the European Championships medal winner and it’s amazing to think the 31-year-old was always able to bring massive humour and fun to the sport considering how taxing he found it.

But bring fun he did in abundance and it’s something he holds onto.

“I’ll always hold onto the fact I beat McKenna twice,” he adds as if to prove a point. “Ah, I’m joking I’ll remember the good times like coming through the Irish team with Tyrone [McKenna] and Tommy [McCarthy]. The non stop messing, we’d done some crazy stuff throughout the years most of which I can’t tell you about now.

“There’s been a few highlights but if I had to pick it would probably be my first big fight in the SSE. Walking out with two guys I’ve always looked up to [James McClean and PaddyBarnes] to Raglan Road and Teenage Kicks and just hearing the Derry support going mad, it was a very proud moment for me.”

When asked about a fight that may slipped through his grasp he revealed he was once linked to two-weight world champ Emanuel Navarrete and would have loved the chance to have fought the sensational talent.

“I think the Navaratte fight was there at a stage. I don’t know how close but I heard an old coach might have knocked it back. Probably for good reason because he’d of taken me out in a few rounds but it would have been nice to have a world title fight in my record.”

What’s next? Well not running for the man with the best long distances time in Irish boxing history.

“I genuinely thought I’d take over the running game once I was done with boxing. However, it ends up that when you don’t have to lose two stone three times a year your motivation to run diminishes greatly.”

McCullagh also reveals his retirement does not mean the end of the Two Tyrones in fact he suggests once Belfast’s McKenna hangs them up they’ll be free to really let loose.

“Tyrone’s not ok, I can’t see him coping long without me, to be honest,” he says suggesting his close pal is feeling a bit boxing lonely at present. “He actually text me the other day saying “you’re the person I’ll never stop looking for in a crowded place” at 4am. I thought it was a wee bit much but I let him have it as he is hurting. We’ve a lot more to give as a double act in fact we are only getting started, we’ve had to be relatively tame with our antics because of boxing but when he hangs them up it’s all systems go.”

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 sports for a living for over 20 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