Ryan Burnett can get to the top again after back problem says Wayne McCullough
WAYNE McCullough winced as he watched Ryan Burnett reach for his lower back before dropping to the canvas at the SSE Arena on Saturday night. There is no pain like back pain, as he knows all too well.
An errant punch from a sparring partner that landed millimetres from his spine forced a six-month delay prior to his 1999 world title showdown with Erik Morales.
And, in what turned out to be his final fight 10 years ago, McCullough was forced to retire on his stool seven rounds into his clash with Juan Ruiz in the Cayman Islands. A back injury picked up in training weeks before had signalled the beginning of the end.
McCullough, a former bantamweight world champion like Burnett, was devastated when Burnett was forced out of Saturday night’s fight with Nonito Donaire at the end of the fourth round, having looked comfortable before a suspected slipped disc ended his night and saw him lose his grip on the WBA belt.
“I feel really bad for Ryan, I’m really sad for him,” said McCullough, who was watching from his home in Las Vegas.
“I gave Donaire the first round and Ryan the next three, I thought he took control after. He’d have won the fight, I think he might even have stopped Donaire.
“It brought back a few memories because, in my last fight, I was ahead on scorecards and after seven rounds but I couldn’t move. I had hurt my back in sparring about three weeks before and in the last week of sparring I couldn’t move.
“I couldn’t walk without limping. I had two pain pills in me and I was strapped up until I left the dressing room, then all of a sudden I couldn’t even get off my stool. When you’re in the ring, if you pull something like that… it’s your back, and anything to do with your back, your whole system shuts down. It’s terrible.
“I tell you what, if anybody criticises that kid, they need their head looked at. I’ve been in his shoes and the pain is excruciating, so so bad. Back injuries are the worst.”
And the Olympic silver medallist believes his fellow Belfast man will get his career back on track once he recovers from this injury.
“Ryan’s only 26 years old, he’s only breaking ice. He can still come back and be a major force at bantamweight,” continued the 48-year-old.
“I feel for him, he’s a great kid and I’ve always supported him. I think he’ll come back, no problem.”