Boxing mourns loss of former Immaculata coach Paul McCullagh sr

Paul McCullagh sr, left, helped Gerard McCafferty train Martin Rogan for a time towards the end of the Noughties
Neil Loughran

BOXING is mourning a giant of the local fight game following the passing of renowned trainer Paul McCullagh sr.

The 72-year-old died on Sunday night while on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with brother Francie, and arrangements are currently being made to bring him back to Belfast.

From one of the city’s most respected fight families, McCullagh sr was a mentor for so many fighters who passed through his hands at the famed Immaculata boxing club.

He was also involved in the professional game, working with the likes of Barry McGuigan, Hugh Russell and Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley, as well as international stars Crisanto Espana and Victor Corboba, during the glory days of Barney Eastwood’s gym in Chapel Lane in the 1980s/early ’90s.

Son Paul jr was also bitten by the boxing bug, showcasing his skills in the ring as amateur and pro before becoming a professional referee, while teenage grandson Paul is an up and coming talent between the ropes.

Gerard McCafferty, a coach at St John Bosco, is a close friend of the McCullagh family and paid a warm tribute to Paul sr, recalling a man who “just loved boxing”.

“It was terrible news to wake up to,” he said.

“Paul was well got in the boxing game. I’ve worked with some great trainers through the years but he was the best I ever worked with.

“The thing about Paul McCullagh was, where he knew the boxing game inside out, he also knew what was going on inside your head. He knew how to get you up for anything.

“He was like a sports psychologist, a boxing trainer, nutritionist, best friend, father figure… he was all those things rolled into one.

“He had his ups and his downs through the years, but Paul was a man who just loved boxing, and everybody in the game had a lot of respect for him.”

McCafferty explained that the death of wife Frances in December 2014 had left Paul sr “heartbroken”, and believes he travelled to Medjugorje seeking comfort as her fourth anniversary nears.

“Paul always used to say about the wonderful things he had seen when he was over there, and how special a place it was.

“I have no doubt he was going to Medjugorje to get comfort from God about the loss of his wife, and now he’s back with her.”

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