McCullough looks to the future after proving doubters wrong
It was with as much a sense of relief as it was joy that Marc McCullough raised his hand in triumph after picking up the WBO inter-continental featherweight title at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on Saturday night.
McCullough's career was on a knife-edge going into his fight with solid Mexican opponent Luis Lugo. Defeat and he was almost certainly hanging up his gloves for good. The temptation to do so had come in February after losing a Commonwealth title fight to Isaac Lowe.
But he fought on and reaped his reward when Lugo failed to come out for the fifth round. He may have complained of an injured arm but it was rib rattling blows to the body, one of which had him on the floor in the fourth round, which gave him the greater pain.
Momentarily at the end of the second round, Shankill Road man McCullough's legs twitched when caught high on the top of the head by a right hand but he re-grouped and gave a controlled performance to spark his career back into life.
"I feel I proved a point. I know that there were a lot of people who doubted me after the loss to Lowe so it means a lot to get the win and that will push me back into the WBO rankings," said McCullough.
"I feel a lot fresher and I thought I was more calm in the ring. I knew he was a tough guy - even after I put him down he wanted to have a real fight but unlike in the past when I just jumped in, I took my time and I could see that I was hurting him.
"Now I can really look ahead to 2017 and hopefully a defence of the belt which would push me further on up the ratings."
Unbeaten Belfast light-welterweight Tyrone McKenna is now well overdue a serious step up in class after a routine victory over Sean Creagh, the Dubliner failing to come out after five rounds of relentless punishment.
McKenna particularly impressed with his whipping uppercuts which cannoned off Creagh's chin but ultimately we learned little more about just how far he can progress.
The Belfast man is keen to move up and prove that he is a genuine contender for the British title.
"I'd face British champion Tyrone Nurse right now if they gave me the chance. I said I was a level above Creagh and I showed that I was a couple of levels above him," said McKenna, who picked up the BUI's Celtic title.
"Now I don't care who I am put in with in Britain. I feel very confident about stepping up in class."
Belfast light-heavyweight Steven Ward enjoyed a 40-36 win over Bulgaria's Merdjidin Yuseinov in their four-rounder, while featherweight James Tennyson was given the same margin of victory over opponent Rafael Castillo.
Ward looked a little nervous on his debut and at times the punches didn't flow as well as he would have wanted but the Commonwealth Games silver medallist nevertheless showed good variety in his combinations as he comprehensively worked over the Bulgarian - and he enjoyed a good level of support in the arena.
Rising heavyweight prospect Con Sheehan was a comfortable winner on points over Kamil Sokolowski.
Meanwhile, in Dublin on Saturday night, Commonwealth Games silver medallist Joe Fitzpatrick had an easy 40-36 win against journeyman Gyula Tallosi, while on the same show Derry man Connor Coyle also triumphed on points.
The middleweight debuted with a knockout win in Florida last month and was a 40-36 winner over Santos Medrana in the National Stadium.