Boxing: Banned McCullough makes winning return

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The Independent Online

Wayne McCullough will "probably not run today, he'll probably take the day off," his manager said. He fought a total of five minutes and 47 seconds here on Saturday, his first ring appearance in 27 months, and the manager, also Mrs Wayne McCullough, said the fighter still banned in Britain probably would be back in the gym tomorrow, in her terms, "back where he belongs".

For nearly 27 months, or since he was told by the British Board of Boxing Control that one more punch to the head could kill him, McCullough has been working out, even during the long months when it seemed that the smudge on his brain pictures would mean the end to his career. Medical experts in three countries, however, have overruled the draconian diagnosis, saying it was probably not even a cyst but a polyp that probably was there from birth.

With a clear bill of health, McCullough showed the results of all that gym work when, surprisingly sharp, the 1992 Olympic silver medallist and former World Boxing Council bantamweight champion knocked out American clubfighter Alvin Brown near the end of the second round of a scheduled ten-rounder.

It was his first knock-out since stopping Johnny Bredhal six years ago in Belfast, his last fight in his native city, and he is still petitioning to get his licence back from the BBBC. The victory, where he took some solid right hands from Brown, will send a message back to Simon Block and the rest of the board, McCullough said.

"They're going to see it. The BBC was here and they're going to show highlights," said McCullough on the way back to his dressing room at the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus. "I got hit in the head and I'm still standing, still talking, not dead."

Fighting for the first time in his thirties, McCullough looked as spry as ever from the start against Brown, who is now 17-5. He stood in his corner, awaiting the opening bell, "looking across the ring and seeing an opponent in the opposite corner, asking myself am I really fighting, am I really here?"

He said all day before the fight he was calm, "never nervous at all". Cheryl McCullough said her husband's ring return had been postponed so many times, she didn't believe it "until he got in the ring".

A crowd of 2,000 or so in the 3,100-seat arena cheered loudly for McCullough, who now makes his home here. Before the bell, he banged both gloves on his temples, then on both sides of his chin, "waking myself up". He moved forward from the start, slipping punches and coming up with hooks and right hands to the body. "I was surprised that he could come out with such aggression," said Brown. "He really impressed me. And I didn't think he could take it, but he did."

McCullough, now 24-3 with 15 knockouts, said one right hand by Brown near the end of the opening round "woke me up – I got like a bit of a buzz".

McCullough, who had hoped for a first-round knockout – "because I've never had one" – hurt Brown a few times in the body in the opening round. He was thinking "it was too good to be true. It can't be this easy, not after two years off."

Midway through the second round, a left hook dropped Brown, who got up at the count of six. "Slick Nick the Quickster", as it advertised on Brown's robe, did not try hard to get up, though, after a left hook to the side sent him down again.

"It was like old times," said Cheryl McCullough.

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