We need to get boxing back in Derry for the people and for the boxers

Tyrone McCullagh raises his winner's belt after defeating Joe Ham at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker.
Chris McNulty in Derry

With the Guildhall clock in the distance, Charlie Nash's mind began to go backwards and forwards all at once.

It was 36 years ago that Nash recorded the last of his 25 professional wins, beating Frank McCord in a lightweight bout in the Guildhall.

Nash recalls it so vividly: The lights, the noise, the mayhem and that notable final win of a 25-5 career.

That win remains a landmark for Derry boxing as it was the headline fight on the last pro show held in the Maiden City.

“It was a dream come true,” Nash says on the Derry walls at a press conference ahead of Tyrone McCullagh's WBO European super-bantamweight title fight against Josh Kennedy in Belfast on Friday night.

Moves are afoot to try to bring pro boxing to the banks of the Foyle again.

Nash says: “It takes me back. It was just unbelievable in front of family and friends in your home town.

“These boys can give inspiration to other young boxers coming up at amateur level. It would be something else to have a show back in Derry again.

“People still remember me for things I did in boxing. I really enjoyed it and people still mention those flights.

“We need to get boxing back in Derry for the people and for the boxers.”

The British Boxing Board's regulations mean that Derry is presently unable to stage a show, as the city is too far away, time-wise, from the nearest neurological unit - at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Officials put the estimate that Derry is just eight minuets out and hopes are high that work to the A6 Drumahoe-Dungiven road will enable the dream to become a reality.

“The end goal is to have a title fight in Derry at some stage in the future - I'm just mad to make that happen,” the 11-0 McCullagh says.

“That would be unbelievable. For my last fight against Joe Ham, the noise when my name was read out was just unbelievable.

“That's all the people travelling 80 miles from Derry. Imagine that crowd in the city of Derry. it would be a dream come true.”

There would be no shortage of men to fill a potential Derry card.

Creggan man Sean McGlinchey (2-0) returns on Friday night's ‘Danger At The Docks' bill at the Titanic Exhibition Centre after a year-and-a-half out of action, while Galliagh's Connor Coyle (8-0) recently had to shelve a planned ABF Continental America middleweight title bout that was planned for this weekend.

Dungiven's Paul McCloskey successfully defended the EBU European super-lightweight title with a win over Barry Morrison in 2010 in Letterkenny.

The Irish Boxing Board operates under different regulations and a return to Letterkenny is not out of the question for men like Derry native Seamus Cunning, who's number 1 choice would be the Foyle Arena in his home city.

Nash won the EBU European lightweight crown against Francisco Leon in 1980 at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin and McCullagh is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Nash and McCloskey.

As an amateur, McCullagh won a European senior silver medal in Moscow eight years ago.

Now, he's bidding to get his hands on a continental belt.

“It's gone quicker than I thought,” says McCullagh, who beat Ham for the Celtic super-bantamweight strap in June.

“People might say it's come too soon, but I don't agree. I've a lot of experience behind me. I'm ready for Friday night. This is where I want to be. I'm relishing it.

“When I got an invite to train full-time with the Irish team, it was a great excuse out of school! One thing just led to another and here we are. It's been a long road, but I'm starting to reap the rewards now.”

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