Wayne McCullough recalls his Prince Naseem fight: "When you bring my family into it, you cross the line!"

Former Belfast fighter chats to Off The Ball

Wayne McCullough, Prince Naseem Hamed

Wayne McCullough (L) recoils after taking a hit to the face from Prince Naseem Hamed in the tenth round of the 12-round WBO Featherweight Championship held in Atlantic City, NJ, 31 October. Naseem Hamed won the fight on a decision retaining his title. AFP PHOTO TOM MIHALEK

This weekend, Carl Frampton takes on Leo Santa Cruz in a massive WBA featherweight title fight in New York.

It is arguably the biggest bout involving a fighter from the island of Ireland on US soil since former WBC Bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough took on Prince Naseem in Atlantic City back in 1998.

British fighter Naseem Hamed won that fight for the WBO Featherweight belt by unanimous decision after 12 rounds.

"I always thought Hamed would never fight me. He talked a load of garbage. When he fought in Dublin against Manuel Medina in 1996 in the Point, I was still the Bantamweight champion and he was featherweight so we were two divisions apart and then I read the headlines in the paper from back home and he said 'my wife is scared of me fighting him' and I'm thinking 'why is he bringing my wife into it for?'" Wayne McCullough told Off The Ball tonight as he looked back on that fight and his career which had seen him go unbeaten in his first 20 pro fights and picking up a silver medal in the bantamweight ranks at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

"I went straight to the Guinness Factory where the weigh-in was and confronted him and that's not like me. But I walked straight up to him, and he had about 20 people around him, and I just said 'I don't care what you say about me, but when you bring my family into it, you cross the line!'"

Wayne McCullough in 2002 ©INPHO/Andrew Paton

McCullough also felt some of the pre-fight posters for the Medina fight were disrespectful, although he recalls turning up to attend that fight and getting a rousing reception from the Irish fans.

Shortly after that, the opportunity to fight Prince Naseem came up and money wasn't a factor in McCullough's thoughts.

McCullough lost the bout but Naseem was unable to knock him out, although the Belfast fighter has issues with certain aspects of the fight.

While McCullough was disappointed a rematch never happened, they have since met and he found the former British boxer who only lost once in 37 fights to have changed personality-wise.

"He was a different person - nice and respectful and I couldn't have said a bad word about him."

McCullough also looked back on his bruising but successful WBC Bantamweight defence against Jose Luis Bueno at Dublin's Point Depot in 1996.  

"I don't remember anything from the third round until the next day and I remember sitting on the stool in the third round and praying to God to get me through it," he said.

"Bono from U2 was at the fight and he came into my dressing room afterwards - this is the story I heard from my wife - he held my hands for like 30 minutes and just talked about how tough I was, gave me his sunglasses and everything  and it was like somebody was telling me a story. But now I've met Bono a few times and he always talks about that story, how tough I was, how tough the fight was and how proud he was for me."