McCullough finely prepared for Bueno's visit to Dublin
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH has his eyes firmly set on his $1 million pay day here in Las Vegas on June 7th. First, however, he must dispose of Jose Luis Bueno, who challenges for McCullough's World Boxing Council bantamweight championship in the Point in Dublin on March 30th.
He cannot afford any risks in the Dublin fight as victory would give him the opportunity of adding the World Boxing Association title presently held by John Michael Johnson to the one he already holds and if and when this happens, the American boxing public and the wealthy television stations here in America will be sure to get excited about a fight which could turn out to be the top bout of the year.
McCullough has been single-minded in pursuit of his dream to the extent that for the last three years he has made Las Vegas his home just to show evidence of his dedication. After winning the silver medal in the Barcelona Olympics nearly four years ago, he set about looking for someone to manage his affairs and finally settled on Matt Tinley, a television company executive, whose previous profile in boxing management was far from high.
However, Tinley put together. an excellent back-up team of the vastly experienced Eddie Futch and the equally highly thought of TheIl Torrence and the pair have moulded McCullough from being a top-ranking amateur into one of the most respected bantam weights in the world.
Futch and Torrence have impressive CVs. Futch has been described as "one of the best ever to have worked a fighter's corner." Those corners have included those of Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks and Mike McCallum. At 82 years old, Futch is still lively enough to put on the pads and take a boxer through his paces. He says McCullough is one of the most improved boxers he has ever worked with and forecasts a very bright future for him.
Torrence has 39 years of experience behind him and he, too, has trained boxers whose names are known world-wide, such as. Tony Tubbs, Riddick Bowe and Mike McCallum, who will be. remembered as the man who successfully defended his middleweight title against Steve Collins a few years ago.
McCullough's punching rare was always very high, even as an amateur. However, he was a notoriously slow starter and this fault was tackled immediately when he joined the paid ranks. In addition, Futch and Torrence concentrated on getting McCullough to shorten his punches so as to make them more effective and this by all accounts has worked.
In his first 10 fights, all but one in the United States, he stopped nine of his opponents inside the distance. His present record is 18 wins out of 18, with 14 stopping before the final bell. Only four of those contests have been in Ireland - two in Dublin and two in Belfast, the last of these including a successful defence of the world title against Danny Bredahl from Denmark.
McCullough's greatest achievement so far has been the winning of the title in July of 1995. On that occasion he took a huge risk of going to Nagoya in Japan to take on the reigning champion, Yasuei Yakushiji. He put up one of the best performances ever seen in the Japanese ring to win the title on points over 12 rounds.
His return to the Point in Dublin is beginning to get considerable media attention here and a win over Bueno will certainly set up a very big event in Las Vegas on June 7th against the reigning WBA champion, who has had 19 wins, 14 of them knockouts, and five losses in his career. Johnson, a Mexican American, has won considerable popularity with the boxing public in the US and in Mexico and is certain to attract huge interest.
First, though, McCullough must dispose of the highly rated Bueno, who has had 28 fights with 20 knockouts and only Six defeats. "I realise that I must keep my concentration on Bueno for the moment," McCullough said yesterday.
"I'm looking forward to coming back to Dublin. I will always remember the wonderful reception the Dubliners gave myself and Michael Carruth after Barcelona. I owe the Dublin public a top-class performance and that is what I intend to give them."