Marc McCullough shapes up for a war
Marc McCullough says he can sense that his career is truly on the rise... if only because he is starting to come under attack on social media.
McCullough headlines a bill for the first time at the Waterfront Hall tonight when he faces unbeaten Martin Parlagi for the vacant WBO European featherweight title and promoter Barry McGuigan has spoken at length this week of his belief that the Belfast man is ready for lift-off.
"It's been really exciting leading up to the fight, I've had guys contacting me from England looking for T-shirts and hats and the Shankill has been going mad. I've been out running and everyone is waving and shouting across to me, I felt a bit like Rocky running through the streets," said McCullough.
"People are starting to know who I am which is good news for me but it also led to me taking some abuse on Twitter. A fan of Patrick Hyland was giving me stick and then all my mates got on defending me. I suppose in a funny way it shows people are taking notice of me and that my career is moving in the right direction.
"Hyland has mixed in world class company and maybe that is a fight that I could have down the line – I'd love that fight if it could be made."
As well as his usual tough regime under the gaze of coaches John Breen and Eamonn Magee, Irish champion McCullough also had his blood tested by his sponsor Randox Health in the lead up to the fight.
"Randox Health said they would do the tests to see what shape I was in and it seemed to go well, though my waist for my height wasn't even on the scale!" added McCullough.
"Overall it told me what I knew, that I'm in great shape for what is my biggest test so far."
Randox Health GP Dr Alison Logan added: "We wanted to make sure that his intensive exercise wasn't having an adverse effect on his heart, because we have seen this in other sportsmen and women we have helped. Using one of our unique tests, we examined Marc's heart tissues at a molecular level and thankfully we found no evidence of strain or damage – he really does have the heart for the fight, in more ways than one."
Tonight, though, unbeaten Parlagi intends to break his heart. Usually when you hear of a Slovakian coming to box here it is expected that he will be cannon fodder for a local prospect, but one look at Parlagi on the scales was enough to signal that he intends to reverse the roles.
"McCullough is not an exceptional boxer, he's just an ordinary boxer, an average boxer," said Parlagi with a shrug and a dismissive smile. "I expect to win this fight, whether inside the distance or on points. Then my career will go to another level."
McCullough insists that he is ready to grab his moment in the spotlight. "I would love 10 hard rounds, if I get him out early I'll not worry but I'm ready for a tough night. This really is my big chance, my moment to show that I can be a big name," he added.
Unbeaten super-flyweight Jamie 'The Mexican' Conlan defends his WBO European title against Hungarian Gabor Molnar in the main supporting fight, while Coalisland prospect Conrad 'Dynamite' Cummings faces another Magyar, Lajos Munkacsi at middle.
Limerick's Willie Casey, Belfast's Conall Carmichael and classy Isaac Dogboe of Ghana are also on the card.