The Chris Eubank Jnr and Liam Smith show rolled into Manchester last week but although the eagerly anticipated rematch dominated headlines, it was the British and Commonwealth super middleweight title fight between Oldham’s Mark Heffron and Little Lever’s Jack Cullen that was the talk of the North West gym scene.
The strengths and frailties of each man are common knowledge and opinion on who would win was split.
Some thought Heffron’s power would be too much for Cullen. Others insisted Cullen would be able to frustrate Heffron and use his own aggression against him. Plenty assumed that ‘Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver’ would get dragged into a war.
The only point of agreement was that the fight was unlikely to reach the halfway point. Cullen agreed.
Midway through the third round the 29 year old beat Heffron to the punch and landed a picture perfect left hook. Heffron made it to his feet but stumbled forward again, leaving referee Keiran McCann with no option but to stop the fight. Cullen (22-4-1, 10 KO’s) was the new champion.
“These are the fights that I’ve always wanted. When me and my dad were watching the boxing, this is the title he wanted me to fight for. He said, ‘One day, kid, you’ll fight for that.’ Well, I fought for it and won it,” Cullen told VIP TV.
Cullen fought his way up from the small hall circuit where his crash, bang, wallop style earned him a large following and the English title. That same give-and-take approach has made him must see television but it also exposes his vulnerabilities.
He has notched impressive victories over John Docherty and Avni Yildirim but Felix Cash and Kevin Sadjo were able to draw him into a fight and stop him whilst the excellent Diego Pacheco was simply too much and inflicted a painful fourth round defeat in March.
Cullen trains in Chorley with the Jennings brothers - former British welterweight champion, Michael, and Dave - who took on the frustrating job of trying to convince him that he will be better served by utilizing his physical advantages and under rated boxing ability rather than ignoring them. The aim has never been to turn Cullen into a 6ft 3in version of Willie Pep but to show him that his best route to success lies in rationing the chaos until the perfect moment presents itself. Their patience looks to have paid off.
“Michael said that if I stuck to the gameplan it’d be an easy night,” he continued. “If I didn’t stick to the plan, I’d have a hard night. I caught him in the second round and just kept boxing. Normally, I’m an idiot who goes jumping in.
“I’ve had nights like this before, going in as an underdog. I was a big underdog for this one. Those big fights got me ready for this. My ‘0’ went a long time ago. A lot of boxers think they can’t lose that ‘0’. If they do, that’s them done. That’s not the case at all. As long as you dig deep and keep training, it just goes to show [what you can do].”
Beating Heffron and claiming the British and Commonwealth titles will breathe new life into Cullen’s career.
The Pacheco defeat seemed to have shown the extent of his capabilities but if the lessons of the past few months have truly sunk in, Cullen’s next foray into European or fringe world class might just play out much differently. Cullen isn’t the type to call out names but he would love to give Sadjo a first hand look at the new, improved ‘Meat Cleaver’.
“Pacheco is going to be a world champion. He’s gonna be at the top of the tree in no time. I’ve only been beaten by the best. I got beat by Felix Cash, I got beaten in the European title fight [by Sadjo]. That was my own fault. That was me being stupid.
“I’d love that rematch. That’d be a lovely one. First of all I want to defend the British title and we’ll go from there.”