The Derry super bantamweight defeated Scottish champion Joe Ham to win the BBBoC Celtic title and English champion Josh Kennedy to take the WBO European rankings belt in what was a break-out 2018.
Now ranked #13 with the organisation, McCullagh intends to hone in on titleholder Emanuel Navarrete who is currently alligned with Top Rank – who recently announced a patnership with the Irishman’s management, MTK Global.
However, before world titles – or even eliminators – it’s a six rounder at the Ulster Hall this weekend versus Nicaraguan journeyman Miguel Corea [9(4)-21(15)].
McCullagh had been slated to top a bill in Derry this month but with this card being put back, and ‘White Chocolate’ having been out since October after keep-busy in December fell through, a rust-shaker was decided upon.
It’s all part of the process for 28-year-old who takes a step back with the confidence that he will soon be propelled forward.
When asked by Irish-Boxing.com if he has found it hard to get up for this encounter, McCullagh replied “not necessarily.”
“I’ve trained very hard for the last ten weeks for this fight so I’m taking nothing for granted.”
“Don’t get me wrong I’ll miss the buzz of headlining and fighting for titles but I need a fight like this to get the ring rust off because I haven’t been out since early October. I’ll be back to run the show very soon though ”
“Without a doubt 2018 was my best year in boxing but I’m always wanting more and I plan to build on it. My team have a plan for me so I’ll just keep on winning and stick to my side of the bargain.”
The goal is simple for this year.
“I’d love to get a world title shot,” states McCullagh confidently.
Indeed, while the Foylesider is just one win over a fellow Top 15-rated boxer from jumping up the ladder and right into contention, McCullagh’s name might not be the first that comnes to mind when one thinks of potential world title challengers from these shores.
However, the European bronze medallist has big belief and notes how “I genuinely don’t think I’m too far off and if I get that shot I believe I’ll win.”
“…So people can take from that what they want!”
Following his first camp under Danny Vaughan in Glasgow, McCullagh explains that the style honed under the Storeys and then Vaughan’s father Georgie will remain quite similar – although with a slightly more ‘pro’ approach.
The talented southpaw detailed how “Danny has been working on tweaks with me, that I don’t need to move as much and I can settle down more. I’ve been doing it in sparring I just need to try it on the night.”
“I’ve had a look at [Corea] I think he’s better than what his record suggests – although that isnt much. He will definitely have a go and won’t just roll over although I’d like to think I’ll have too much for him.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)