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Tyrone McCullagh dominates in Golden Contract quarter-finals

Tyrone McCullagh moved into the semi-finals of the Golden Contract tournament tonight following a dominant display at the York Hall in London

The Derry featherweight was in action in the opening quarter-final of the eight-man tournament which offers the winner a five-fight deal with a major promoter with six-figure guaranteed purses.

Facing England’s Razaq Najib, ‘White Chocolate’ eased through ten rounds and claimed a clear points win live on Sky Sports and ESPN+.

Until tonight McCullagh had spent the entirety of his championship career at super bantamweight, picking up the BBBoC Celtic and WBO European titles. A shot at 122lbs WBO champion Emmanuel Navarette had been mooted for the big Mick Conlan show in Belfast back in August but this would not play out and the Foylesider elected to jump up in weight for a shot at the lucrative Golden Contract tournament.

Having drawn fourth and final pick on Tuesday, McCullagh was initially due to face mysterious Mexican Carlos Araujo but the Latino would pull out due to being unable to make the 126lbs weight limit safely. Scheduled to face Jacob Robinson in an eight rounder on the undercard, Sheffield’s Najib stepped in yesterday morning.

A former English and EU title challenger, losing to Samir Mouneimne and Golden Contract entrant Carlos Ramos respectively, Najib looked to be a solid foe but was no match for the former top Irish amateur.

Walking to the ring to his usual medley of ‘Raglan Road’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’ – and accompanied by Tyrone McKenna dressed as a giant panda – McCullagh made an impression from the very start.

The awkward southpaw found his range quickly, poking home with straight shots as Najib stalked ineffectively.

Fighting comfortably, McCullagh landed some heavy shots in the second as his aggressive opponent pushed forward.

Najib managed to hit home with his first real punches of note at the start of the third and McCullagh would respond with some meaty bodyshots in a scrappy round.

Drawing the sting out of his Yorkshire foe in the fourth, McCullagh was largely in control, banking the rounds in Bethnal Green.

Cruising as he approached halfway, the effective fighting style of McCullagh was not pleasing the eye of Matt Macklin in the commentary box but the European bronze medallist looked to have no need to force the issue.

Najib managed to close the distance somewhat in the sixth but McCullagh remained in firm control.

Frustrated, Najib threw McCullagh to the canvas in the seventh and would have his nose bloodied by the rapier jabs of the Ulsterman in return.

McCullagh’s southpaw left was starting to do cumulative damage in the eight and, by this stage, the only question was whether the Derry boxer would win on points or by stoppage.

Coasting, McCullagh threw little in the penultimate round and did have a trip to the canvas – correctly ruled a slip – but remained on top.

The final three minutes played out much like the preceding 27 and McCullagh took the fight to the cards, winning 97-93, 98-92, and 96-94.

The win, which was closer on the cards than most saw, sees McCullagh improve his record to 14(6)-0 and progresses into the semi-finals early next year. The game but outclassed Najib drops to 11(2)-4(0).

Mullingar’s David Oliver Joyce will be in action later tonight.

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