Wayne McCullough just might have had the sturdiest chin in lower weight boxing in the 1990s and 2000s. In fact, you could go further than that and suggest the Irishman had one of the greatest chins of all time. It sure is hard to disagree with such thinking when re-watching McCullough’s fights with hard punchers Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales, along with “The Pocket Rocket’s” fight with the much bigger Scott Harrison.
Neither guy was able to stop McCullough, but each fighter sure hit him with everything they had in a concerted effort at doing so. Throughout his 34 fight pro career, only two men ever managed to halt McCullough – this being Oscar Larios via a TKO stoppage McCullough was left fuming over (the first fight between the two had gone the full 12 rounds and the rematch looked set to do the same, before the doctor decided to end proceedings, this over McCullough’s protests), and Juan Ruiz, right at the end of McCullough’s career, this being a corner retirement.
Nobody ever knocked McCullough out, he was simply too tough, too stubborn and too amazingly strong for that. It was 21 years ago today when McCullough met the great Erik Morales. Challenging the then 34-0 Morales for the WBC super-bantamweight title, McCullough, a former WBC champ down at 118 pounds, was a big underdog. Morales vowed to “do what Naseem Hamed couldn’t do,” meaning he would KO his challenger. McCullough, who had been decisioned by Hamed the year before, just laughed.
Morales was 23 years old and he had stopped his previous nine foes and he was making the eighth defence of the belt he had won by defeating common opponent Daniel Zaragoza. McCullough was 29 and he had won just one fight since losing widely to Hamed. When the action got underway inside The Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, it soon became apparent that Morales would be tested hard. Very hard.
Both men slugged it out, Morales with a mindset that made him refuse to take no for an answer as far as getting that stoppage, while McCullough fought with a “no way can you stop me” attitude. Morales hit McCullough with everything, yet never did the proud Irish warrior look like falling. McCullough won some rounds, and in the rounds Morales won there was some furious trading.
Over the course of a great fight, a memorable fight, Morales had to dig deep to see it through to the end. For though he was ahead on all cards and had dished out a ton of punishment, Morales was the more fatigued fighter. In fact, when resting in the corner after rounds 10 and 11, Morales looked close to exhaustion, slumped on his stool as he was gulping down both oxygen and water. To this day, McCullough says that, had the fight had been set for 15 rounds and not 12, he would have won.
Maybe. As it is, Morales won a wide unanimous decision that doesn’t tell the full story of the at times grueling fight. If you ever wish to marvel at the astonishing chin of an astonishing fighter, you need look no further than Morales W12 McCullough.