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How Wayne McCullough sealed one of all-time great world title victories 25 years ago


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On top: Wayne McCullough with the WBC bantamweight belt

On top: Wayne McCullough with the WBC bantamweight belt

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On top: Wayne McCullough trading blows with Yasuei Yakushiji

On top: Wayne McCullough trading blows with Yasuei Yakushiji

Thell Torrence

Thell Torrence

On top: Wayne McCullough with the WBC bantamweight belt

When the moment came it was relief, joy and vindication coursing through his body. "MaCullaaaa!!" roared the Japanese MC to confirm a split decision world title victory was to be celebrated by the little warrior from Belfast. Wayne McCullough, WBC bantamweight champion, July 30, 1995.

Northern Ireland's winners of major world titles have been few and far between and McCullough - as so often in the highlights reel of his career - had done it the hard way. Arguably, on the 25th anniversary of his great achievement, the ring was never again quite as satisfying a place to be for the Pocket Rocket after 12 gripping rounds with hometown favourite Yasuei Yakushiji.

Yes, there would follow energy-sapping duels with Jose Luis Bueno and Erik Morales, a controversial loss to Daniel Zaragoza and a defiant duel with Naseem Hamed, but on a Sunday afternoon in the Aichi Prefectural Gym, Nagoya, Shankill Road man McCullough was at peak guile and grit.