McCullough's acid test
Barry wants rising star Marc to deliver eye-catching display
Marc McCullough is a young man still getting used to being the main attraction and tomorrow night at the Waterfront Hall he must handle growing expectations from without and within.
McCullough meets unbeaten Martin Parlagi in a vacant WBO European featherweight title fight over 10 rounds at the Waterfront Hall and both manager John Breen and promoter Barry McGuigan were in agreement that it is the "acid test" of his career so far.
Unbeaten Parlagi is going to offer his team and his growing fan base a good barometer as to just where the Belfast man is on his journey up the featherweight ladder – and an indication as to how quickly progress can be made towards greater challenges.
Certainly tough Slovakian Parlagi cannot be overlooked as he comes to Belfast with a strong amateur pedigree and a belief that he will outbox McCullough. "I have more skills, I hope I outpoint him and show everyone that I deserved to win," says Parlagi.
The Slovakian will be bringing his own band of supporters to the Waterfront, an indication of the belief that he sees this as the ideal stepping stone to bigger fights.
Promoter McGuigan said: "At some stage in a fighter's career you have to give them a real test and this the acid test for Marc McCullough and he's got to show me that he can do it.
"I know that he can and I'm very excited about his potential but he has to show me and the fans and I see him beating Parlagi but it won't be an easy fight and if he has any weaknesses they will be exposed on Friday night.
"I believe this is Marc's coming of age fight. The guy is coming here with a group of fans because his camp are full of confidence and Parlagi has put his unbeaten record on the line because he is convinced that he will win.
"But Marc is a huge featherweight, far bigger than I was and he's going to re-hydrate and probably go into the ring around 10 stone so it'll be interesting to see how Parlagi handles that.
"We want Marc to get this title and then it's title fights all the way. We can look for the British title but if that door closes we can always look for another route. We want these guys to have big fights and to have them here.
"I've already offered British and Commonwealth champion Josh Warrington a fight with Marc but his manager Steve Wood said he had another fight, he didn't want it.
"And I honestly don't think they'll ever come anywhere near Marc McCullough but that's alright, we have other options."
Just in the same way that World title challenger Carl Frampton had to overcome certain hurdles before hitting the big time, so McCullough is now firmly in the spotlight as he headlines what promises to be an exciting bill at the Waterfront.
The Shankill Road man accepts that Parlagi's international amateur experience far outweighs his own but is equally quick to suggest that is more than evened out by his own armoury.
McCullough said: "He does have a good amateur record and Paddy Barnes says that he remembers him and he's a good fighter but there's a difference between the amateurs and the professional game and I think when he feels my power he'll not be as confident.
"I expect him to be coming at me early on but from about fourth round I expect to take over.
"This is the fight that can kick-start both our careers, this is the one that can move us on to facing some of the big boys so I know how important this is for me and I have trained better than ever and I've had no problems at all leading up this, it's been a great camp."
Coach John Breen was delighted with the way McCullough stopped Willie Casey – also on the bill – in an Irish title last year, when he was a very raw professional but expects Parlagi to be even tougher.
"This has to be the hardest test because Parlagi is 14 and zero and he has eight knockouts and those knockouts have come early," said Breen.
"Marc did a great job with Willie Casey when he was the underdog and now he has to go up another level and I believe he will."