Borders boxer John McCallum back in ring this month and hoping to land title

Ex-Borders boxer John McCallum’s injured left hand has healed and he’s raring to get back into fight action this month.

John McCallum fighting Evgeny Tishchenko
John McCallum fighting Evgeny Tishchenko

McCallum, 33, will fight Kazakhstan’s Issa Akberbayev for an International Boxing Federation international title in a 12-round cruiserweight contest on the 10-fight ‘Breaking Point’ bill at London’s York Hall on Friday, November 19.

That contest comes after a previously-scheduled fight between the pair in August was postponed because Akberbayev failed a Covid-19 test. On that occasion, Bristol fighter Lewis van Poetsch was brought in as an 11th-hour replacement for the Kazakh and McCallum won all four rounds, although he sustained a small knuckle fracture.

“Van Poetsch was a journeyman and I beat him quite easily,” McCallum said. “The fracture has healed now. Everything is perfect, although I had to go four weeks with no punching after it happened. I actually caught Covid after that fight and I was in bed for two-and-a-half weeks with coronavirus so I didn’t punch anyway! That did me the world of good because you know what it’s like when you’re itching to get back and you end up punching with it too soon and you end up staving it again.

The Covid was really bad. I never got admitted to hospital or anything like that, but I was struggling to breathe.

“Fighting this guy from Kazakhstan will be a much tougher proposition than van Poetsch. He’s technically much better. He’s won loads of world international titles himself so he’s boxed at a decent level.

“That’s what I’m boxing for, to challenge myself and try and win as much as I can.

“I just believe I’m younger and fresher than Akberbayev. I think I’ve grown into the weight as well. I’ve got the speed and the hunger. I started off as a welterweight, moved up naturally through welter and middle, supermiddle, light heavy.

“I’ve boxed professionally for 11 years but there’s not a lot of miles on the clock. I’ve only had 15 professional fights, 13 wins and two losses.”

McCallum, formerly of Galashiels and Melrose but now based in London, said that beating Akberbayev would put him into the top 10 in the world with the IBF, earning him a decent fight and he has already been in negotiations with Cuban boxer Mike Perez, a former World Boxing Council cruiserweight title challenger, over the prospect of fighting him for a World Boxing Association title in Germany early in 2022.

He hopes that fights such as those could be a stepping stone towards him getting a rematch with giant Russian southpaw heavyweight Evgeny Tishchenko for the WBO cruiserweight belt after losing to him in a second-round stoppage in Russia last November.

As an amateur, Tishchenko was a two-time Olympic gold medallist, twice European champion and two-time world champion.

“I just want to fight the best in the world and it shows that I’m willing to do that when I’m jumping in with 6ft 8in Russians at two weeks’ notice,” McCallum said.

“I definitely believe I can win. I shared a ring with him and never felt out of place at all.

“I think with a good camp and a good bit of notice, I’d definitely do a job on him. That’s why I want a rematch with him. It’s nothing to do with money.

“I’ve got my own company as a finance broker. It’s just sporting success I want, wanting my kids to be able to look back and say that their dad achieved X and it’s a target for them if they want to do anything in sport.”

He hopes that if he manages to meet and beat Akberbayev and Perez, that would give him an extra push towards fulfilling his dream of taking on one of the top names in the sport.

“You never know,” he added. “I remember back in the day I was in the same gym as Ricky Burns, the first Scottish boxer to have won world titles in three weight divisions, sparring every day.

"He had been beaten by Alex Arthur, beaten by Carl Johanneson for a British title, beaten by somebody else and then he wins an intercontinental fight and gets a phone call to fight a boy from Puerto Rico.

“The fight ends up happening in Glasgow and he ends up beating him and becoming a world champion.

“I saw Ricky come from defeat. I saw his whole career through and I thought ‘there is no point stopping’.

“When you’re that far in, one fight can change it, and I just think he’s a perfect example of somebody local to home who has done it.

“If I beat Mike Perez, who is number six in the world, then the sky’s the limit.”

Galashiels-based AC Roads and Driveways, a backer of McCallum’s, is sponsoring the Breaking Point show.