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Marc McCullough hoping to keep his career alive in derby showdown

 

Within reach: Marc McCullough is ready for crunch clash
Within reach: Marc McCullough is ready for crunch clash
Ryan Burnett
David Kelly

By David Kelly

There's a real sense that the ring rollercoaster Marc McCullough has been riding since turning professional will either come to a crushing halt tonight in the Ulster Hall or he will find himself accelerating towards one last chance at domestic title success.

The Shankill Road man has been involved in a myriad of dramatic wins, shock defeats, painful losses and rejuvenating victories that have culminated in this evening's intriguing 10-rounder with Dubliner Declan Geraghty.

After losing to Ryan Walsh in a British featherweight title fight two years ago, McCullough wisely moved up to super-feather but is in need of a solid victory over Geraghty to suggest he can still be in the mix for another crack at the Lonsdale belt or even a Commonwealth title shot.

Belfast has not been a happy hunting ground for Geraghty, having lost twice against former world title challengers James Tennyson and Jono Carroll.

Those defeats are a good marker with which to judge how much McCullough has left in the tank. Defeat would probably leave him staring at retirement as he turns 30 next month, while a victory would allow him to target the winner of the upcoming vacant Commonwealth super-featherweight title fight between Zelfa Barratt and Leon Woodstock.

"This boxing business can be brutal, you just never know what is around the corner. But it's great to be back and to be fighting as the main event in the Ulster Hall in a Belfast-Dublin derby which has my supporters excited," said McCullough, who defeated former European title challenger Ruddy Encarnacion last October.

"I'm at a stage in my career where I need a win over Geraghty to hopefully open the door to a big fight. It needs to happen very soon, I know that. The belt that's on the line, the IBF European title, helped Jono Carroll get a world ranking and then a world title shot so who knows what it can do for me.

"To be honest I wasn't that interested in facing Geraghty because I thought I would have moved on after beating Ruddy but Geraghty has done a lot of slabbering and I suppose that's how a lot of guys get fights - it's not my way but the fight was mentioned to me four weeks ago and I went with it."

A packed card is led by former world champion Ryan Burnett returning to the ring following his loss to Nonito Donaire, who will be ringside this evening before heading across to Glasgow to witness Naoya Inoue against Emmanuel Rodriguez in their bantamweight semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series.

Donaire took Burnett's WBA title in the WBSS after the Belfast man suffered a freak back injury and has progressed to the final of the tournament.

Burnett, who has signed with Bob Arum's Top Rank organisation, is back in action at super-bantamweight, though insists he can still make bantamweight.

Arum said: "We've signed Inoue and that's a fight I would like to make for Ryan. But, whether it's bantamweight or super-bantamweight, there are plenty of options for Ryan.

"I'm confident that Inoue will win the WBSS tournament."

Burnett should have little trouble defeating Jelbirt Gomera of the Philippines this evening.

The packed card includes rising prospect Sean McComb who faces solid journeyman Miroslav Serban, who recently lost to Paul Hyland in the Ulster Hall.

"Serban is an aggressive fighter and he'll come forward so I've got to put a bit more whip on my punches. I believe you'll see a significant improvement in that area of my game," said McComb.

Lewis Crocker, Padraig McCrory and Steven Donnelly continue their progress and Dee Sullivan makes his pro debut.

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