The Belfast 32-year-old was hospitalised following his comprehensive 12-round beating by Scott Harrison in a WBO featherweight title challenge in Glasgow in March. However, McCullough has no doubts that he still has what it takes to claim a second world crown to add to the WBC bantamweight belt he won in Japan eight years ago: “I will retire on my own terms, when I am good and ready. Right now I am concentrating on getting back into fight shape.
“The thought of retirement has never crossed by mind because, as soon as you start thinking about retirement, then you might as well do so. Many world champions have lost worse than I did and they have come back stronger, sometimes getting bigger purses along the way. No-one says they should retire.”
McCullough was treated overnight in Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital for dehydration and exhaustion after his defeat. His badly damaged left ear was also drained and bandaged, but McCullough, who has never been stopped, was angered by the storm of criticism levelled towards his team for not pulling him out of the fight in the torrid middle rounds.
“I was never hit by more than two or three shots in a row and I know I never felt close to going down.
“I may have been hit by big shots, but my head was always clear. I remember after each round sitting in my corner and looking across the ring to where my wife was sitting. If she thought for one minute there was something wrong with me, she would have come to my corner, but she knew I was fine. My trainer, Kenny Croom, was also criticised for not stopping the fight but, if a fighter is fighting back with strong legs, as I was, there is no reason for the fight to be stopped.
“The referee had the closest view and he knew my eyes were clear and, therefore, he did not deem it necessary to stop the fight,” said McCullough.
It was McCullough’s first title fight for nearly three years following a two-year ban imposed by the British Boxing Board of Control after brain scan irregularities.
Meanwhile, McCullough paid a rich tribute to his conqueror Harrison with whom he had become embroiled in a heated war of words prior to the fight: “I never make excuses when I lose and I never will. The truth is that Harrison was stronger than anyone I have ever fought. I felt like I was fighting a welterweight. He was able to push me around the ring, something no-one else has ever been able to do.
“Even so I would never give up and I fought right on until the final bell.”