Futch lends nobility to noble art


JUST when boxing needs it most, Eddie Futch arrives in Dublin to bring some dignity to the noble art of self defence. Headings for his 85th birthday, Futch speaks slowly and evenly about the sport.

For a man who has handled some of the best exponents of boxing down the years he seems gentle; to the point of apology. However, when asked about Wayne McCullough, the WBC bamtamweight champion, he becomes animated.

"My only problem with Wayne is getting him to slow down. He is the most dedicated trainer that I have ever come across. He simply won't stop, even when I tell him to take it easy, but he will be in the gym before anybody else and will work harder that everybody else. He is exceptional," says Futch.

The speaker is somewhat exceptional himself. He is escorting his third wife on this trip and she is at cast 50 years younger than him.

McCullough himself showed a strangely unco-operative aspect of his character when he and his opponent, Jose Luis Bueno, appeared in the Guinness brewery in Dublin yesterday evening. He refused to pose for a photograph with Bueno.

McCullough's manager, Mat Tinley, was adamant that the fight between the two in The Point on Saturday night was not a pushover was some people think.

"I know that we made a date in Las Vegas for Wayne in June but we are not going to talk about that just now. We know that Mexicans are always very determined fighters. Wayne has to get this out of the way first and then we will talk about the future," Tinley said.

Bueno exuded confidence. Through an interpreter, he said: "I believe that this is a very important chance for me to become a world champion. I respect Wayne. He won the title on foreign soil and there is no reason that I cannot win here. The first thing is to respect your opponent and I do that. Wayne has to respect me and we will discover who is the better boxer on Saturday night."

McCullough was particularly quiet at the head-to-head press conference yesterday evening. He later confessed that he was not in an expansive mood. "I went to Japan and I won there. Now he has the same opportunity here in my country. I must be sure of my preparation and I will leave nothing to chance. This is the fight that I need to win. I am not underestimating anyone. He has a good record and I know that I have to be at my best," he said.

On the question of a possible match between himself and Britain's "Golden Boy" Naseem Hamed he was somewhat dismissive, as was his manager Mat Tinley. "Listen. Naseem isn't interested in fighting Wayne. He knows the score. He will have to beat some real opponents before he can qualify for a fight with Wayne," Tinley said.

Meanwhile, tickets for the six-fight boxing bill at The Point have reportedly perked up with the arrival in Dublin of the top contenders. A big contingent of Belfast fans will travel south for the fight.