Resilient McCullough aiming to prove he can reach top
Sitting at home, bewildered and wondering how his career had just hit a roadblock, Marc McCullough felt his future in the ring looked bleak. He wasn't the only one. Those who travelled to watch him lift the Commonwealth featherweight title in Manchester on the same night Carl Frampton outfoxed Scott Quigg were left deflated by McCullough's demise at the hands of Isaac Lowe.
This was supposed to be the title victory to springboard the Shankill Road man onto the path to a shot at a World crown but instead he left the ring looking as far away as a solid journeyman. The pain seared into him with more menace than anything Lowe had thrown at him.
This Saturday night at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, as chief support to Jamie Conlan, he knows there is a great deal to be done to win back those supporters when he faces Mexican Luis Lugo in a WBO inter-continental featherweight title fight. Another loss and the dreams of glory will arguably never be realised.
"After the fight with Lowe there were a lot of people who stopped believing in me. I know that and I understand it and I need to prove to them that I've still got what it takes to be a top fighter," said McCullough, who enjoyed a routine comeback six-round win in September.
"It's been a tough time for me. At the start of that fight with Lowe I felt there was nothing there, I felt drained and for most of the fight I just felt that I had a puncher's chance. I just had to look for a big punch and that was never going to work at that level.
"I felt sick after the fight. It was really hard to take and when I got home it got to the point that I didn't want to go out because everybody was asking what happened and I didn't have a real answer. I felt really down.
"I know I should be beating someone like Isaac Lowe and that's not being disrespectful to him - I just know that when I box the way I know I can then I can be up there at the top level."
McCullough had been lined up to face unbeaten Michael Roberts but that fell through and now he meets Lugo for the inter-continental belt.
"I haven't been able to see what he's like but I know that he turned professional when he was 13 and won his first three fights by knockout and now he's 21 and has had twice as many fights as me," added McCullough.
"He's the kind of guy who either wins by knockout or loses by knockout.
"He's going to come in all guns blazing and I'll have to be ready for that.
"Too many times in recent fights I've been too reckless. I need to be a lot smarter and box the way I can.
"This is another big opportunity for me and I can't afford to waste it. Win this fight and I'll go right into the top 15 of the WBO rankings and I would then expect to be back in February for a first defence in Belfast.
"It's an exciting time for Belfast, there's a lot of us now who have the chance to get the Belfast boxing fans behind us and I want to be one of them.
"I haven't felt as fresh in a long time, I'm on the weight and I really feel I'm ready to do myself justice and give the performance that I need to."