Dominating his IBO International title fight with tough Spaniard Ruddy Encarnacion, the Belfast super feather was hurt badly in the fifth. He seemed to stem the flow with a flash knockdown in the eighth only to be dropped himself in the ninth before rallying amazingly in the tenth and final round to win on the cards.
It was another dramatic showing from the Shankill favourite who has been in a total of nine 10/12-round fights and has been hurt in seven of them.
“It was hard earned, alright, I wasn’t expecting that!” he laughed afterwards.
“I knew he was going to be tough but I wasn’t expecting how tough he really was.”
“I put myself through hell in the gym and I’m glad I did now because I wouldn’t have lasted another five.”
McCullough was referencing the fifth round where he was – unbeknownst to commentators and onlookers – was hurt badly and started to unravel somewhat following a controlled performance up to then.
The 28-year-old recalled how “I think it was the fifth, I caught a bodyshot and I hardly recovered, I’m still feeling it now.”
“Every punch he was hitting me with after the fifth round I was starting to feel.”
Encarnacion finally put McCullough down in the ninth and he admits that he was almost gone at that point – only to survive the round and finish extremely strongly in the tenth.
The former Irish champion and Commonwealth and British title challenger described how “I don’t even know what punch he caught me with or where or what.”
“I remember lying on the ground going ‘what happened there?’ Still, for about 30 seconds or a minute after, I was still recovering.”
The win sees McCullough pick up the IBO International title and it looks now that he may elect to go down the route of the minor world title.
While the IBO is not held in the same regard as the recognised world titles – WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO – it so happens that the organisation’s champion at 130lbs is one of the best super feathers around.
Tajik southpaw Shavkat Rakhimov [13(10)-0] is the current holder of the belt having outpointed Emmanuel Lopez last year and stopping Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellanos in defences this year.
McCullough is open to facing the man ranked as the #9 in the world by the independent Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and #7 by the computerised BoxRec rankings..
The Ulsterman outlined how “I’m not one to call people out, I just fight people they put in front of me.”
“One hundred percent I’d go for the world title, that would be a great opportunity now that I’m in the [IBO] Top 10. Why not?”