The early part of the Derry super bantam’s career saw him suffer with fight cancellations, injuries, and inactivity.
Fans got a glimpse of ‘White Chocolate’ in full flight in December when he destroyed unbeaten German Tom Tran and next weekend he really gets the chance to stand out.
McCullagh faces Scottish champion Joe Ham [14(5)-0] for the vacant BBBoC Celtic title on the Mick Conlan homecoming undercard at the SSE Odyssey Arena in Belfast.
The build-up to the bout has been somewhat tetchy, with a few verbal barbs sent either way and it looks to be just the sort of motivation needed for McCullagh.
The fighter – who now trains in Liverpool with Danny Vaughan – explained how “there is a genuine dislike for the pig [Joe Ham]. It’s a personal thing.”
“We’ll fight for 10 rounds and then I’ll shake his hand because that’s what I do but right now I just don’t like him,” he said of the Glaswegian who has blocked him on social media before predicting that a hostile atmosphere at the Odyssey will harm Ham’s chances.
“The atmosphere is going to be pretty daunting for him. If the shoe was on the other foot, I know I’d be daunted. He’ll bring some support to Belfast but they’ll be drowned out by mine.”
While it’s no doubt a step up for the European bronze medallist, McCullagh would not subscribe to the view being put forward that it is a 50-50 fight.
The Foylesider feels he is levels above Ham and noted how “we were in the same division as amateurs too. He just didn’t fly high enough to fight me. Now he’s saying he’s going to shut me up in front of my own fans. I really don’t think so.”
“It might sound disrespectful but I’m not in boxing to fight the likes of Joe Ham. I won’t underestimate him and will prepare professionally but I believe I’m simply a higher level than him.”
“I’ve been sparring Paddy Barnes and he’s perfect preparation to fight Ham. They have similar styles but Paddy is much more talented.”