Wayne McCullough

Wayne Pocket Rocket McCullough (born Wayne William McCullough; 7 July 1970)[2] is a former professional boxer from Northern Ireland who competed from 1993 to 2008. He held the WBC bantamweight title from 1995 to 1997, and challenged six times for world titles at super-bantamweight and featherweight. As an amateur, McCullough represented Ireland at the 1992 Summer Olympics, winning a bantamweight silver medal. He also won flyweight gold at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, representing Northern Ireland.

Wayne McCullough
019 - Macklin.jpg
McCullough (centre) in 2008
Real nameWayne Pocket Rocket McCullough
Nickname(s)Pocket Rocket
Height5 ft 7 in (170 cm)[1]
Reach66 in (168 cm)[1]
BornWayne William McCullough
(1970-07-07) 7 July 1970 (age 51)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Boxing record
Total fights34
Wins by KO18

In addition to McCullough's dogged, relentless attacking style,[3] he was renowned for his durable chin, having fought two of boxing's biggest punchers in Naseem Hamed and Érik Morales, and gone the full distance with both of them. During his bout with Morales in 1999, HBO commentator Larry Merchant joked, "If you look in the dictionary, under 'Tough Irishman', you'll find a picture of Wayne McCullough". McCullough was never once knocked down in his professional career. He also stopped the late Arturo Gatti as an amateur.[4]

Amateur careerEdit

McCullough had a very successful amateur career, amassing a record of 319 wins and 11 defeats, with over 100 wins coming by way of knockout. As an amateur living in the staunchly loyalist Shankill Road area of Belfast, he was selected by the island-wide Irish Amateur Boxing Association to participate in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, and asked to carry the Irish flag as the youngest member of the team (aged 18). He went on to win a silver medal for Ireland at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Representing Northern Ireland at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, Auckland, he won a gold medal and carried the Northern Ireland flag in the closing ceremony. The medal ceremony for his Commonwealth title was marked by an unusual incident. A technical problem with the public address system made it impossible to play the recording of the song "Danny Boy", used instead of an anthem for medalists from Northern Ireland. The New Zealand official in charge of the sound, Bob Gibson, promptly took the microphone and sang the song unaccompanied.[5] In 1990, McCullough also won Bronze for Ireland at the Boxing World Cup in Mumbai, India.

1988 Olympic GamesEdit

1990 Commonwealth GamesEdit

1990 World CupEdit

  • Representing Ireland at Flyweight and winning Bronze, in the Mumbai World Cup. Results were:
    • Defeated Manoj Pingle   – Points
    • Defeated D.K. Park   – Points
    • Lost to Serafim Todorov   – Points
    • Defeated Fred Mutuweta   – Points

1991 World ChampionshipsEdit

1992 Olympic GamesEdit

Professional careerEdit

In 1993 McCullough moved to Las Vegas to train under Eddie Futch, who agreed to train him after seeing him at the Olympics. McCullough always fought in neutral colours and did not have national anthems played at his fights; his supporters in Northern Ireland include Protestants and Catholics. Within a year of turning pro, he had won the North American Boxing Federation title.

On 30 July 1995, less than 2½ years since his pro debut, he won the WBC championship by beating the champion Yasuei Yakushiji in Nagoya, Japan to become Ireland's first ever WBC world champion. He was the first fighter from Ireland or the UK to travel to Japan and win a belt. He defended his title twice before vacating the belt and moving up in weight to challenge WBC super bantamweight champion Daniel Zaragoza, but lost via a split decision in the WBC "Fight of the Year". After this fight, his wife Cheryl and Stuart Campbell began to manage his career when his original manager, Mat Tinley, became a boxing promoter.

McCullough unsuccessfully challenged champions Naseem Hamed in 1998, and Erik Morales in 1999. In each of those exciting "Fight of the Year" contenders, he broke his opponent's lengthy run of KO wins while taking them the distance. Hamed had knocked out 18 opponents straight before McCullough, and was 30–0 at the time with 28 knockouts to his credit. Morales had knocked out 9 of his previous 9 opponents and was 34–0 at the time, also with 28 knockouts. Morales stated that McCullough gave him one of the top three fights of his career and almost quit on his stool after the 9th round (according to Ring magazine).

In October 2000, McCullough was to return to his native Belfast for a homecoming fight. Two days before the fight was scheduled to take place, he was told that he had a cyst on his brain, he couldn't fight again and that one more blow to the head could kill him. McCullough flew back to Las Vegas and was advised by the Nevada Commission to visit the neurosurgery department at UCLA for a more thorough investigation. Within a few weeks the doctor at UCLA, Neil Martin, called to say he had consulted with some of the top neurosurgeons in the US and they had come to the conclusion that the cyst was not on his brain, but in a space between the brain and the skull – called the arachnoid mater – and that he saw no reason for him to give up his boxing career.

Nevertheless, the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) continued to deny him a licence. He was relicensed in Nevada and fought again in January 2002. After a very public battle, the BBBC could no longer deny him a licence and later that same year McCullough stepped back into a British ring under the Frank Warren Promotions banner.[6] Thereafter he had mixed success, winning five fights but losing to Scott Harrison and Mexican world champion Óscar Larios on two occasions. The result of his first fight with Larios is widely disputed.[7][8]

On 17 August 2005 McCullough was appointed the first WBC World Ambassador for Peace and Goodwill in Sports. In September 2005, McCullough became a United States citizen.[9] In November 2005, McCullough released his autobiography, Pocket Rocket: Don't Quit, in the UK and Ireland. He went on a publicity tour to promote the book, which reached Number 2 on the best sellers list.[citation needed]

In 2007, McCullough joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship organisation as a PR associate, to promote Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). He currently trains fighters both in boxing and MMA and is setting up his own charity – IHOW.

McCullough vs. MartínezEdit

In 2007 McCullough signed to fight Spain's Kiko Martínez who had just defeated Bernard Dunne at the Point Depot, Dublin for the European super bantamweight title. The fight between McCullough and Martínez was due to take place at Belfast's Kings Hall on 1 December 2007.[10]

McCullough had not fought for over two years and the Kings Hall venue was sold out for the fight. It was agreed that the non-title fight would take place at 8 st 12 lb mark. However, on the day before the fight there was uproar during the weigh-in and the fight was cancelled by the BBBC amid chaotic scenes.[11]

McCullough had already contracted to fight at 2 lb over the 8 st 10 lb championship weight and he weighed in at 8 st 9 lb. However, Martínez failed to make the agreed weight and was 1.75 lb over the agreed weight.[12][11]

Martínez was given a couple of hours to shed the excess weight, but did not return to weigh in again and the scales were closed by a BBBC official. A furious McCullough stated "I couldn't believe it. He comes in over the weight and then after being asked to take it off he just sits there and does nothing. I just can't believe what has happened. I was ready to fight and ready to win and he comes in that much over the weight."[12][13]


On 20 June 2008, McCullough fought Juan Ruiz in the Cayman Islands, his first fight in three years. He lost in six rounds, retiring on his stool. Despite being ahead on two of three judges' scorecards after six rounds, he told his corner he could not go on due to an injury he had sustained in training. The Belfast boxer took the microphone and revealed this might be his swansong. He said: "I think this could be my last fight and I want to thank you all for coming. I am disappointed with the way things went but I just felt I could not go on."

Personal lifeEdit

McCullough married Cheryl Rennie, also from Belfast, in the early 1990s.

In May 2004, McCullough changed his name by deed poll.[2]

Professional boxing recordEdit

Professional record summary
34 fights 27 wins 7 losses
By knockout 18 2
By decision 9 5
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
34 Loss 27–7   Juan Ruiz RTD 6 (10), 3:00 20 Jun 2008   Royal Watler Cruise Terminal, George Town, Cayman Islands For vacant NABF featherweight title
33 Loss 27–6   Óscar Larios RTD 10 (12), 3:00 16 Jul 2005   MGM Grand Garden Arena, Paradise, Nevada, US For WBC super-bantamweight title
32 Loss 27–5   Óscar Larios UD 12 10 Feb 2005   Palace Indian Gaming Center, Lemoore, California, US For WBC super-bantamweight title
31 Win 27–4   Mike Juarez TKO 2 (8), 2:59 23 Sep 2004   Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, California, US
30 Loss 26–4   Scott Harrison UD 12 22 Mar 2003   Braehead Arena, Glasgow, Scotland For WBO featherweight title
29 Win 26–3   Nikolay Emereev TKO 4 (10), 2:55 2 Nov 2002   Maysfield Leisure Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland
28 Win 25–3   Johannes Maisa TKO 4 (10), 2:12 14 Sep 2002   York Hall, London, England
27 Win 24–3   Alvin Brown KO 2 (10), 2:43 12 Jan 2002   Cox Pavilion, Paradise, Nevada, US
26 Loss 23–3   Érik Morales UD 12 22 Oct 1999   Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, US For WBC super-bantamweight title
25 Win 23–2   Len Martinez UD 10 30 Aug 1999   The Joint, Paradise, Nevada, US
24 Loss 22–2   Naseem Hamed UD 12 31 Oct 1998   Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US For WBO and lineal featherweight titles
23 Win 22–1   Juan Polo Perez SD 10 19 May 1998   Memorial Coliseum, Corpus Christi, Texas, US
22 Win 21–1   Antonio Oscar Salas UD 10 7 Apr 1998   Mohegan Sun Arena, Montville, Connecticut, US
21 Loss 20–1   Daniel Zaragoza SD 12 11 Jan 1997   Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, US For WBC super-bantamweight title
20 Win 20–0   Julio Cesar Cardona UD 10 13 Jul 1996   Mammoth Events Center, Denver, Colorado, US
19 Win 19–0   José Luis Bueno SD 12 30 Mar 1996   Point Theatre, Dublin, Ireland Retained WBC bantamweight title
18 Win 18–0   Johnny Bredahl TKO 8 (12), 1:55 2 Dec 1995   King's Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland Retained WBC bantamweight title
17 Win 17–0   Yasuei Yakushiji SD 12 30 Jul 1995   Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya, Japan Won WBC bantamweight title
16 Win 16–0   Geronimo Cardoz RTD 7 (10), 3:00 14 Mar 1995   Pontchartrain Center, Kenner, Louisiana, US
15 Win 15–0   Fabrice Benichou PTS 10 12 Nov 1994   Point Theatre, Dublin, Ireland
14 Win 14–0   Andres Cazares KO 3 (10), 2:59 15 Sep 1994   Silver Nugget, North Las Vegas, Nevada, US
13 Win 13–0   Victor Rabanales UD 12 17 Jun 1994   Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US Retained NABF bantamweight title
12 Win 12–0   Mark Hargreaves KO 3 (6) 19 Mar 1994   The Den, London, England
11 Win 11–0   Javier Medina TKO 7 (12), 2:44 18 Jan 1994   Civic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska, US Won vacant NABF bantamweight title
10 Win 10–0   Jerome Coffee RTD 5 (10) 30 Nov 1993   Civic Center, Pensacola, Florida, US
9 Win 9–0   Andres Gonzalez KO 2 9 Nov 1993   Fargodome, Fargo, North Dakota, US
8 Win 8–0   Boualem Belkif TKO 5 (10), 1:57 24 Sep 1993   National Stadium, Dublin, Ireland
7 Win 7–0   Conn McMullenn TKO 3 (6), 2:43 18 Jun 1993   Maysfield Leisure Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland
6 Win 6–0   Luis Rosario TKO 6 (6), 1:24 1 Jun 1993   The Blue Horizon, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
5 Win 5–0   Manuel Ramirez TKO 5 (6) 4 May 1993   McNichols Sports Arena, Denver, Colorado, US
4 Win 4–0   Oscar Lopez RTD 4 (6), 3:00 16 Apr 1993   Cyclorama Building, Boston, Massachusetts, US
3 Win 3–0   Oscar Zamora UD 4 26 Mar 1993   Reseda Country Club, Los Angeles, California, US
2 Win 2–0   Sergio Ramirez KO 3 (4), 2:34 18 Mar 1993   Paramount Theatre, New York City, New York, US
1 Win 1–0   Alfonso Zamora TKO 4 (4), 0:39 23 Feb 1993   Reseda Country Club, Los Angeles, California, US Professional debut

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "BoxRec: Wayne McCullough". BoxRec. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b McGarel, Bryce (16 March 2010). "Boxing champion in Beyonce video remake". BBC News.
  3. ^ "McCullough back on course". 13 January 2002 – via bbc.co.uk.
  4. ^ "McCullough: A fighter's perspective on Chavez-Johnson". 23 September 2005.
  5. ^ "Ask Wayne?". Pocket Rocket - Wayne McCoullough. pocketrocketbox. p. 27. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Doctor quits over McCullough licence". 1 July 2002 – via bbc.co.uk.
  7. ^ "McCullough secures Larios rematch". 26 May 2005 – via bbc.co.uk.
  8. ^ "Boxing News 24/7". 16 November 2012.
  9. ^ RTE
  10. ^ Derek Bilton. "WADE INTO WAYNE'S WORLD". Betting Zone. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  11. ^ a b "Wayne blows his top". Belfast Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Big Fight Farce!". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  13. ^ "McCullough's comeback bout is off". BBC. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2008.

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
Regional boxing titles
Title last held by
Elvis Álvarez
NABF bantamweight champion
18 January 1994 – September 1994
Title next held by
Paulie Ayala
World boxing titles
Preceded by WBC bantamweight champion
30 July 1995 – 11 January 1997
Title next held by
Sirimongkol Singwancha