The BBBoC Celtic champion destroyed English champ Josh Kennedy at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, picking up the WBO European super bantamweight title in the process.
Following a fractious build-up, in which the pair exchanged plenty of barbs online, it was the Derry fighter who outclassed his divisive opponent winning almost every second of every round at the docklands.
The heavily-tattooed Kennedy, microphone in glove, sang his way into the ring, adopting ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ much to the chagrin of the raucous Irish crowd.
McCullagh then raised the roof with his usual ‘Raglan Road’ fading into ‘Teenage Kicks’ fare
Southpaw McCullagh began well, rattling off one-twos before sinking a right hook into the body which caused Kennedy to momentarily drop his elbows. The Englishman was swarming forward, low, swinging in shots and targeting the body primarily.
McCullagh’s footwork and punch-picking came to the fore in the second round, with the gulf in talent being evident but Kennedy continued to press.
A scrappier third saw Kennedy score with some cuffing shots. McCullagh responded well, though, retaking control and then knocking the visitor off balance with a strong one-two.
It was turning into exhibition stuff for McCullagh in the fourth with the Foylesider enjoying some showboating and knocking Kennedy’s head back with a long left hand.
Kennedy was cut under the left eye in the fifth round and was beginning to cut a forlorn figure himself as McCullagh continued his dominance into the second half of the bout.
Kennedy’s right backhand finally found McCullagh midway through the seventh but this was but a brief spark, with ‘White Chocolate’ remaining well and truly in the driving seat.
To his credit, Kennedy continued to push in the eighth round but McCullagh evaded almost everything that came his way and responded with thudding bodyshots.
The Folkestone puncher did enjoy some success in the ninth round but the penultimate stanza was still McCullagh’s following a barrage of bodyshots in the final minute.
Going to the cards with absolutely no doubts, McCullagh was confirmed a winner with scores of 99-91, 99-92, and a frankly unbelievable 96-94.
The win sees McCullagh improve his record to 12(6)-0 while the outclassed Kennedy drops to 11(5)-1(0).
With the WBO European rankings belt now wrapped around his waist, the Irishman can be expected to be added to the organisation’s Top 15 in next month’s update.
The current holder of the brown belt is Ghanaian Isaac Dogboe – although McCullagh has previously stated his desire to chase IBF champion, countryman, and managerial stablemate TJ Doheny.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)