Boxing: Harrison's fight with McCullough recalls golden era

Steve Bunce
Friday 21 March 2003 01:00
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The list of great domestic fights during the last decade or so is dominated by the physical sacrifices of a few good men from the super-middleweight division – but that will change tomorrow night at the Braehead Arena, Glasgow, when two featherweights meet.

Scott Harrison is the local idol and the World Boxing Organisation featherweight champion and Wayne McCullough has made the short journey from Belfast to make the dream fight a reality and to put into perspective the tacky bauble that the winner will leave the ring with. The world title belt is an annoying necessity in modern times and not something that really matters.

In many ways it will be like a night from the 1960s or the 70s when two boxers from the lower and certainly less fashionable weights captivated knowledgeable crowds with displays of boxing that most modern fans would find alien.

This fight is not about the WBO belt that Harrison won back in October with a display that came close to perfection against Julio Pablo Chacon, an Argentinian who threatened havoc, but left the ring in tears of confusion after a slick lesson in the noble art that few had predicted. McCullough was ringside that balmy night and professed to be unimpressed with Harrison's master class in the sweet science, proving only that good boxers can also be bad liars.

A fight was hastily arranged with both eager to test the other in a meeting that could signal the end of the road for one, and the start of an incredible fistic journey for the other. McCullough has held better world titles and fought better fighters in a long career, but Harrison has only shown glimpses of the ring education that could help him become a truly memorable pugilist.

McCullough is 32 and eight years ago travelled to Japan to win the World Boxing Council bantamweight title, which he surrendered on the night he lost a challenge for the super-bantamweight version to the Mexican legend Daniel Zaragoza in 1997.

In 1998 McCullough lost on points to Naseem Hamed for the same WBO belt that he is fighting Harrison for, and the following year he sensibly moved back down to super-bantam and lost to Erik Morales for the WBC's belt.

Harrison is not yet as good as Zaragoza, Hamed or Morales but he is confident that McCullough's decline and his rise will combine tomorrow night to enable him to drop and stop the Irish fighter for the first time in his career. There is no real evidence that his impressive learning curve has slowed.

McCullough, meanwhile, has reached his peak but has not passed it and is capable of exhibiting all the skills he has acquired through a career that includes two Olympics, 10 years in Las Vegas gyms and total of 29 fights. Harrison has lost once on a cut in 20 fights and is seven years younger.

Perhaps the glaringly obvious result is Harrison winning on points after yet another brave but ultimately flawed performance from McCullough but there are signs that this fight will be really special.

If Harrison does manage to overwhelm McCullough, who is the naturally smaller man, and force a stoppage in a one-sided fight it will be a shock because McCullough is not yet in terminal decline.

If he can stop McCullough, but only after a struggle, that will put an end to all arguments about the fight of the year.

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