The signing of a professional contract from Joe Ward has delayed Paul McCullagh’s pen to pro paper plans.
The St John Bosco fighter becomes the latest light heavyweight to state his Olympic intentions.
The big hitting talent, whose emotional Ulster Seniors win came via first round knockout, was considering pro offers and his professional options.
However, with ‘roadblock’ Joe Ward no longer obstructing the road to Tokyo 2020 McCullagh, like a number of Irish 81kg fighters, has an Olympic dream again.
“There was people approaching me [about going pro], and there’s no doubt Joe Ward was a massive roadblock,” said McCullagh when speaking to the Irish News.
“I’ve always trained like a pro – it’s something that has suited me more, the way my boxing style is. But since a big opportunity has arisen, I’ve decided to stay amateur.
“There’s the Olympics next year, and the Commonwealth Games in 2022. I’m the reigning Ulster elite champion so I would love to retain my title and go to the Commonwealth Games so I could get my name out there a bit more.”
McCullagh did have a chance to stake his claim as the best of the rest at the weight earlier this year. He entered a Joe Ward-less National Elite Championship but excited at the quarter final stage to eventual finalist Tommy Hyde.
However, he feels he has progressed massively since.
“I felt I didn’t perform that night, and from then on, being down with the Irish squad, I’ve come on a lot. I was in sparring with the likes of Tony Browne, so I’m coming on a lot.”
McCullagh isn’t the only fighter hoping to fill a Ward sized gap – and November’s National Elite Championships could go a long way to deciding who gets selected for the Olympic qualifiers.
Tony Browne, who gave Ward a fight the last time the Moate man won national honours, has dropped down from heavyweight, reigning champion Tomas O’Toole will be confident of repeating his success, Tommy Hyde has spoke of his determination to reach Tokyo at the weight, Kane Tucker is certainly a teen to watch out for and now you have the heavy handed McCullagh in the mix.
There is a lot at stake and a lot of talent fighting for one slot, but McCullagh doesn’t foresee any fall outs.
“I know all the lads around my weight, we’ve all been sparring down in Dublin so we all know each other well. They’re all good lads, all respectful lads. At the end of the day we’re all out for the same thing, aren’t we?”