Name: Wayne McCullough
Alias: Pocket Rocket
Birth Name: Wayne William McCullough
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Birthplace: Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Pro Boxer: Record
Trainers: Eddie Futch (1993-98) Wayne McCullough
Manager: Cheryl McCullough
- 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist, representing Ireland
- Currently The Ring's Las Vegas correspondent
Wayne McCullough is a former WBC bantamweight champion and Olympic Silver Medalist.
The Belfast born warrior enjoyed a stellar amateur career winning Gold at the 1990 Commonwealth Games and a Silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
He moved to Las Vegas in February of 1993 to begin his professional career. McCullough racked up 11 wins in his first year in the paid ranks picking up the NABF bantamweight title with a win over the then unbeaten Javier Medina.
McCullough?s aggressive style of non stop punching quickly endeared him to U.S. fight fans and his nickname of the "Pocket Rocket" given to him during his amateurs days by former team mate Kieran Joyce stuck. In 2004 McCullough would make it official changing his name by deed poll to Wayne Pocket Rocket McCullough.
In June of 1994 in just his 13th pro fight McCullough proved his world class credentials with a hard fought points win over former World Champion, Victor Rabanales. The victory cemented his claims for a World title shot and it duly arrived in July of 1995.
McCullough had to travel to travel for his big chance though going all the way to Japan to take on defending WBC bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji. McCullough set his usual frantic pace and the champion simply could not match his workrate. After 12 rounds McCullough looked to be a clear winner but the result was announced as a split decision. Two judges had scored the fight for McCullough by scores of 118-110 and 116-113. However South Korean judge Jae-Bong Kim had the defending champion a one point winner on a score of 115-116.
Justice was served though and the split decision handed McCullough the win he deserved and the world title he had craved. McCullough returned home to Belfast for his first defence stopping Denmark?s Johnny Bredahl in eight rounds. His second defence took place in Dublin and proved a much tougher night than anticipated.
In the opposite corner was Mexican Jose Luis Bueno a former WBC Super Flyweight title holder. McCullough started brightly but the effects of making the 118 pound bantamweight limit soon began to tell and his fight with Bueno literally became a life or death struggle. After twelve punishing rounds McCullough retained his title via split decision but his desperate battle to make the weight had taken it?s toll and he was rushed to hospital with high blood pressure.
Despite holding onto his title staying at bantamweight was out of the question for McCullough so he moved up to super bantamweight to challenge another Mexican, Daniel Zaragoza for his WBC Super Bantamweight crown.
The fight took place in Boston in January of 1997 and after twelve action packed rounds Zaragoza retained his belt. McCullough?s late rally had the older champion rocking and reeling but it was too late and the scorecards handed Zaragoza a split decision win.
After a couple of comeback wins McCullough moved up in weight yet again to challenge WBO Naseem Hamed for his WBO Featherweight title. Hamed was on a 18 fight knockout streak and the brash champion predicted a third round KO was in store for his clash with McCullough which took place on October 31st, 1998.
Hamed tried to make good on his prediction but it quickly became apparent that McCullough?s growing reputation as a granite chinned fighter was well deserved. McCullough took Hamed?s best shots and caused the Prince plenty of problems of his own.
With his prediction made to look silly Hamed seemed content to settle for a points win and eventually took a unanimous decision to retain his title.
McCullough regrouped with a comeback win before going back down to super bantamweight for another World title challenge. In WBC champion Erik Morales he was facing another young champion with a reputation as a destructive puncher. The undefeated Mexican had won eleven in a row by KO but McCullough?s performance in Detroit on October 22nd, 1999 confirmed his reputation as having ?the best chin in boxing? an award that was officially bestowed to him by the Ring magazine some time later.
In a back and forth battle Morales and McCullough traded blow for blow before Morales eventually prevailed with a unanimous decision. The Mexican would later go on to rate McCullough as his second toughest opponent second only to the aforementioned Zaragoza and one place ahead of his great rival Marco Antonio Barrera.
Following the third defeat of his career McCullough was once again forced to regroup however the biggest fight of his career lay just around the corner. In October of 2000 McCullough was back in Belfast ahead of a homecoming bout when his world was turned upside down with the news that he had failed a pre fight brain scan.
An MRI scan had detected a cyst in the space between his skull and his brain. The British Boxing Board of Control denied him a licence to box and he returned home to Las Vegas thinking his career was over.
Back in the U.S. he sought a second opinion from a variety of neurosurgeons. They all came to the conclusion that the cyst was probably of no consequence to his boxing career and had probably been present since birth.
Armed with this knowledge McCullough began a lengthy battle with the British Boxing Board of Control to have his licence reinstated. In the meantime having proved his fitness to the Nevada State Athletic Commission he was free to fight in the U.S. and in January of 2002 he finally returned to the ring with a second round win over Alvin Brown in Las Vegas.
Eventually in the summer of 2002 the BBB of C overturned their decision and finally granted McCullough a licence to box. This led to McCullough scoring a pair of wins in London and Belfast before securing another World title shot.
This time McCullough targeted Scott Harrison?s WBO featherweight title and the eagerly awaited bout took place in Glasgow in March of 2004. From the opening bell Harrison looked to be a least a weight division bigger than McCullough and it soon turned into a long painful night for the Belfast man.
Typically McCullough demonstrated his trademark durability but the one sided nature of the defeat convinced most observers that McCullough was now well past his best.
McCullough though was determined to continue with his career and following a second round knockout of Mike Juarez he landed yet another world title shot. This time it was back down at super bantamweight and saw him challenge a third Mexican for the WBC super bantamweight belt ? Oscar Larios.
Before the fight the challenger was written off as washed up but McCullough had always maintained that illness had hampered his preparations for the Harrison fight and that he would be back to his best against Larios. The now 34-year-old proved as good as his word backing up the champion and applying his trademark relentless pressure.
However there was to be heartbreak again as after 12 rounds Larios was awarded a unanimous decision despite some feeling that McCullough had done enough to rip away the Mexican?s title.
The quality of the fight led to calls for a rematch and a second match was made for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for July of 2005. The defending champion made a bright start dominating the opening round but McCullough enjoyed success in the third and fourth rounds cutting Larios over both eyes and backing him up to the ropes.
However Larios re-established control from the sixth round onwards and although McCullough?s by now almost legendary toughness kept him in the fight Larios became increasingly dominant.
By the end of the tenth round ringside physician Dr. Margaret Goodman stepped between the ropes and stopped the fight despite continued protests from McCullough. The defeat brought McCullough?s overall record to 27 wins and six losses.
While McCullough has yet to call time in his career he is heavily involved in media work and has also embarked on a career as a trainer. He has worked with working with European super featherweight champion Alex Arthur, Librado Andrade, Enrique Ornelas and Francisco Santana.
- 1988 represented Ireland as a Light Flyweight at Seoul Olympic Games.
- 1990 North America vs Europe Winner at Flyweight, in Salt Lake City, United States.
- Defeated Tim Austin (United States/North America) 2-1
- 1990 Commonwealth Games Gold medalist at Flyweight, in Auckland, New Zealand.
- 1990 World Cup Bronze medalist at Bantamweight in Bombay, India.
- 1991 World Championships quarter-finalist at Bantamweight in Sydney, Australia.
- 1992 European Olympic Qualifier Silver medalist at Bantamweight in Halle, Germany.
- 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games Silver medalist representing Ireland as a Bantamweight.
| WBC Bantamweight Champion
1995 Jul 30 – 1997 Jan