FORMER world champion Wayne McCullough reached out to Conor McGregor and offered to help him train for his impending fight with Floyd Mayweather, but had no response. Despite the snub, McCullough – who trained under the great Eddie Futch during his brilliant career – senses that the Dubliner will defeat Mayweather in Las Vegas on Saturday night in a result that will spell “disaster” for boxing.
Here in Las Vegas, sat inside the MGM Grand, McCullough – who barely looks a day older than his fighting days – explains all to Boxing News in a fascinating interview.
What do you make of Mayweather-McGregor? Should it have been sanctioned?
Floyd wouldn’t come out of retirement to face Gennady Golovkin at 154lbs – I wonder why? [laughs] Floyd’s been out of the ring for two years and a fighter can get old overnight. He may step in the ring and think, ‘I don’t feel right’ and disaster could strike. I take my hat off to Conor for getting Floyd to come out of retirement.
Even if Floyd has gotten old overnight, is it possible he’s regressed so much he can lose to McGregor?
You go back 12 years and look at Roy Jones, when he lost to Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver and we found out he didn’t have the chin when he couldn’t get away from the punches anymore. But I think Floyd has a better chin than Roy, and when he gets hit, he covers up. Look what happened when Shane Mosley hit him. But Conor is more of a one-punch guy, and you can’t look for a knockout with just one punch because you’re not going to get it. If Conor looks for that one shot, he’s going to leave his chin exposed for Floyd’s left hook. You can’t fight with your chin up in boxing especially with someone who’s as quick as Floyd.
What are your thoughts on Mayweather?
I had the honour to spar Floyd back in the day, we shared a gym together, I’ve known him for 20 years. Floyd’s a good guy, he’ll come here and he’ll talk to me, he’s that type of guy. But he wants to be [portrayed as] the villain, because the villain makes more money, and he’s making more money.
What do you make of the roles each of them have played in the build-up?
It’s all rehearsed. Both guys are making a ton of money. Like I say, I take my hat off to Conor for getting the fight, but there’s top contenders like Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jnr who are probably thinking, ‘It should have been me. I should be getting the top payday to fight Floyd.’
Is it a poor indication on the health of boxing that this could go down in history as the most viewed fight and it’s a mismatch on paper?
If everything goes to plan, it’s a mismatch. But disaster can strike, and I’ve got a feeling it is going to happen. Do you ever get that feeling in your stomach? I really think Conor is going to do it. I really believe that and I’ve believed that for the last six months. And people say, ‘Floyd works out every day’ but so do I. Sometimes you think you can do it and then you step in the ring and you realise you can’t. You realise you’re not the same, your speed is not the same. But if it’s just one shot at a time, I don’t think Conor can do it, but if Floyd’s reflexes are shot a little bit…
You really think Conor can do it?
I’ve had it in my gut for a long time. Floyd did say he’s not the same fighter he was two years ago. I’ve reached out to Conor for the last year-and-a-half, and I said, ‘Come along and I’ll teach you boxing. Spar with me, I’ll push you and push you’ but he never replied to me. Even a week ago I said to Dana White, and I know Dana really well, that I’d love to go and watch him train and I’m still waiting for the response. I wanted to help him, I would have sparred him and I wouldn’t have wanted paying. My trainer Eddie Futch trained with Joe Louis back in the day, he knew how to prepare for speed.
Should we pay any attention to the stories that emerged from McGregor sparring Paulie Malignaggi?
Conor picked Paulie because he was out of shape, he’s not a puncher, he was never going to hurt Conor. Both guys are good talkers, they’ve got under each other’s skin. If I’d have been Paulie I’d have gone back and sparred him again and got everyone in to watch this time. But a spar is a spar. You can knock someone out in the gym and then they’ll knock you out in the real fight. I’ve seen it happen before. You don’t have the same emotions [in sparring], you haven’t got the adrenalin pumping. I would have loved to have helped Conor.
What would you have advised him?
I sparred with Floyd and he wants you to go to his head because he can move it. The body doesn’t move. Back when I sparred Floyd, I was with Eddie Futch and he told me to go to the body and then slip punches over the top and it worked. Canelo [Alvarez] fought Floyd and went for the head, Shane Mosley went to the head, but that’s what he wants. But his body doesn’t move and it’s a bigger target. I think the only guy who went to his body was [Jose Luis] Castillo and that was a close fight. The second fight Floyd got on his bike and moved. Conor can’t stand with his chin out with a long reach and a wide stance because if he’s pushed back he’ll have nowhere to go. If Floyd doubles up on his right hand which he does, he’ll catch him on the back foot and he can’t go anywhere.
I would have taught him the things that Eddie taught me. He taught me to do different things for different fighters, and there’s small things you can do. Even when I fought Naseem Hamed, Eddie wasn’t in my corner but he was part of the team and he told me to make Hamed move to his left so he can’t get his right hook off. Hamed was knocking everybody out with the right hook. I made Hamed look terrible but, of course, the media made excuses for him but that was Eddie Futch’s gameplan. That was all down to preparation, and I could have helped Conor like that but it’s too late now.
So what is your final prediction?
It’s not just because I’m Irish – and I’ve known Floyd for 20 years – but when you get that gut feeling, it’s hard to take it away. If Conor does win this fight, and I love both sports [boxing and MMA], it’s a disaster for boxing. You may as well bury your gloves, dig a hole in the back garden and put them there, because it would be an absolute disaster.