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My Fiona got me back on track: British featherweight title challenger Marc McCullough



Top team: Marc McCullough says Fiona Kearns has been tower of strength

Top team: Marc McCullough says Fiona Kearns has been tower of strength

Ryan Walsh

Ryan Walsh

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Top team: Marc McCullough says Fiona Kearns has been tower of strength

In the boxing world, sometimes it is those rarely seen on fight night who keep the flame burning, particularly when the road is not so smooth.

British featherweight title challenger Marc McCullough has revealed how partner Fiona Kearns brought him out of his lowest point when he didn't even want to leave the house never mind return to the gym.

McCullough had just lost to Isaac Lowe in a Commonwealth featherweight title fight on the undercard to Carl Frampton's historic victory over bitter rival Scott Quigg in February last year. Belfast man McCullough was supposed to have lift-off on the biggest stage of his career, but it all turned sour with a performance which for him remains inexplicable.

Stopped by Lowe, McCullough returned home feeling such anger and pain that he even fell out with his family.

"I just went into a bit of a depression. I couldn't understand what happened. My dad actually said to me that he didn't want me to box again because he didn't want to see me take that kind of punishment. That's what led to us falling out and then me and the rest of my family," said McCullough, who tonight challenges Ryan Walsh in London for the British featherweight title.

"My dad was just saying out of real concern for me, and I know that now and everything is great, but because of the state I was in I just thought he was really saying that I was c**p.

"I sat in the house for a week and didn't go out. When I did, because it was such a big event people were coming up and talking about it, which is normal but I found it very hard to accept, and it got to the point where I didn't want to fight again. I just didn't know what to do.

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"Throughout that time Fiona was the one who I could talk to, she was there encouraging me to get out of the house, get out of the rut so I have a lot to thank her for.

"She has always believed in me, even when I'm in the wrong she thinks I'm right because she's so loyal!"

The pair have been together since they were teenagers and in the same way that Fiona will be in the CopperBox Arena tonight, she has been there throughout his career.

"My auntie Susan ran a disco dancing club and I used to go along to watch some of the competitions in the Shankill Leisure Centre and that's when I first met Fiona and we've been together ever since," he added.

"I've had my fair share of ups and downs in boxing whether as an amateur or a professional. Boxing as a professional can be very tough - I think all boxers are big kids, they get emotional and it's easy to get down about silly things, like maybe a bad spar, and then there's the issue of making weight which everyone has to deal with.

"Fiona is very understanding and she knows why I might be in a bad mood. Hopefully that won't be the case after this fight."

Win or lose this evening, the couple recently had a major moment of joy when Fiona discovered she was pregnant.

"I was shocked when she told me, I think we both were," said McCullough, the current WBO inter-continental featherweight champion.

"It's an exciting time for us because we've been together for nine years and it makes me even more determined to go and get the British title.

"Walsh is a good fighter but I really believe that I have the boxing skills and the strength to beat him.

"It's an opportunity to make a big breakthrough on the British scene, particularly with BT Sport covering the fight.

"Walsh's brother Liam is challenging Gervonta Davis for the IBF World super-featherweight title in the main event and Ryan seems to have been more interested in winding up Davis and his promoter Floyd Mayweather.

"To be fighting in front of Mayweather will be a bit special because he's someone who has done so much for the sport and is the best fighter of my generation.

"I think Walsh might be in for a surprise when he feels my strength and my power but the main thing for me is to be smart and disciplined. If I can stick to the game plan then I'll win the fight."

Meanwhile, former world champion Barry McGuigan has signed his first female boxer, Northampton lightweight Chantelle Cameron, who makes her debut on May 26 in Cardiff.

McGuigan, whose son Shane will train Cameron, said: "We are all proud of our new signing Chantelle Cameron, our first female boxer on the team. Chantelle is a hard-working, determined person and this combined with her talent I'm sure will lead to success as a professional boxer.

"Working with Shane's team will bring Chantelle on a great deal and I can already see improvements. I am looking forward to May 26 where everyone can see what I feel is a future World champion."

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