Boxing

Ryan Burnett begins march back to top as friends-turned-foes Marco McCullough and Declan Geraghty prepare for war

Ryan Burnett faces Filipino challenger Jelbirt Gomera (14-5) at the Ulster Hall tonight.

INJURY robbed Ryan Burnett of his world title when the Belfast fighter was forced to retire four rounds into his clash with Nonito Donaire in October last year.

He begins his climb back up the ladder tonight and doesn't have to start from square one. The snake he landed on dropped him back just a few spaces and he returns fully-fit and determined to dismantle Filipino challenger Jelbirt Gomera (14-5) tonight.

The WBC International Super-Bantamweight title is on the line and Burnett already has a potential meeting with the World Boxing Super Series winner – Japan's Naoya Inoue is the favourite - to look forward to next year. He'll start building up towards that fight tonight and Gomera is a decent test for him. The 19-fight veteran has topped the bill at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall in the past but he will not meet a more determined opponent than Burnett who can out-box or go to the trenches with him. Either way, Burnett gets the nod tonight.

Meanwhile, there was no handshake between Marco McCullough and Declan Geraghty at yesterday's weigh-in ahead of their IBF European Super-Featherweight title rumble in the chief support tonight.

McCullough believes Dubliner Geraghty has become more civil as their IBF European title clash draws closer.

Friends during their amateur days, McCullough says Geraghty's mouth has got him a date with the Belfast native at the Ulster Hall tonight on Ryan Burnett's comeback bout.

“At the start, he was calling me out and doing a bit of bad-mouthing – and that's not me, it's not in my nature,” McCullough said at Wednesday's press event in Belfast's Clayton Hotel.

“You just keep the head down and keep winning and the big fights will come. He uses his mouth. There are a lot of boxers out there use their mouth to talk themselves into fights and it's worked for them.

“But I think now, closer to the fight, he knows he's in a fight and he's shut up. And he's in for a hard night.”

McCullough (30) and Geraghty (29) are approaching last-chance saloon territory with the Dubliner suffering losses to Jono Carroll and James Tennyson while McCullough has lost title fights to Isaac Lowe and Ryan Walsh, respectively.

“This is a must-win fight because of my age,” McCullough acknowledged.

“I've had a crack at other fighters that haven't went my way. I need to win, basically. I'm 30 now. If I lost it would take me a year or two to get back here and I haven't got that time now. I'm not thinking about losing.

“He has the added pressure of boxing for a living. I don't think he works whereas I've always had a job. I do an eight-week camp, I murder myself and I'm back to work on Monday.

“My employers are brilliant. They give me eight weeks off for every fight and they tell me: ‘Your job is always here.'”

McCullough also hopes fighting in his hometown will give him the extra edge in tonight's 10-rounder.

“I remember fighting away for the British title [against Ryan Walsh in 2017] and I remember standing at the door and the crowd were on top of me, giving you abuse, and you just felt a bit down going into the fight.

“It's going to be the opposite this time as I'm going to be getting that lift and I think it will help. And in those last couple of rounds when you're tired the support can give you that wee lift.”

Meanwhile, tickets for August's Falls Park showdown between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin at Féile an Phobail went on sale this morning. They are available from Ticketmaster online and from Ticketmaster outlets, with prices starting at £30.

Ulster Hall line-up:

Vacant WBC International Super-Bantamweight title: Ryan Burnett (19-1) v Jelbirt Gomera (14-5)

Vacant IBF European Super-Featherweight title: Marco McCullough (21-4) v Declan Geraghty (18-3)

Super-lightweight: Sean McComb (6-0) v Miroslav Serban (11-2)

Welterweight: Lewis Crocker (7-0) v Jumanne Camero (7-5)

Super-middleweight: Padraig McCrory (7-0) v Eric Nwankwo (1-3)

Super-welterweight: Steven Donnelly (4-0) v TBC

Lightweight: Sean Duffy (debut) v Antonio Horvatic (11-57)

Super-featherweight: Callum Bradley (1-0) v Rafael Castillo (14-52-3)

Cruiserweight: Dee Sullivan (debut) v Pawel Strykowski (2-6)

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