LOCHGELLY boxing star Emma McCulloch has clinched the first belt of her professional career after becoming a Celtic champion on Friday night.

The 28-year-old, a four-time Boxing Scotland Elite Championship winner during her time as an amateur, claimed the light flyweight title in a bout sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC).

As part of the first pro-am event to be held in Scotland, at Glenrothes' Gilvenbank Hotel, that had been due to feature England's Dani Hodges, who narrowly got the better of Emma after their first meeting in July.

Judges ruled 58-57 in favour of the Staffordshire-based Hodges, 33, after that meeting south of the border, but the Glenrothes Boxing Club fighter and her team were confident that she would turn the tables in front of her home crowd.

But, in a dramatic twist less than a week before the eagerly anticipated head-to-head, Hodges suddenly announced her retirement from the sport.

The decision left Emma, Fife's first female professional boxer, facing the prospect of being unable to fight but, thanks to the efforts of her coach, Stevie McGuire, Slovakian Claudia Ferenczi stepped into the breach.

After receiving confirmation from the BBBC that the Celtic belt would still be up for grabs, Emma went on to win each of the six two-minute rounds to get the judges' verdict by 60-53.

But, in the run-up to the contest, Hodges – in an interview with Birmingham Boxing Column – had spoken of her belief that it would be "a different fight" to their previous meeting, and her decision left Emma's dad, Allan, baffled.

"She did an interview on the Thursday (January 21) where she was saying that she was going up to Scotland, that it would be a tough fight as it was tough in Birmingham, and that Emma deserved a rematch," he said.

"Stevie said he got a phone call late on Saturday night to say that she had pulled out and had decided to retire.

"Why not go up and, win, lose or draw, command a bit of respect in the sport?

"Her manager messaged Emma on Sunday to say congratulations, said he knew nothing about it, was awfully sorry about what happened and had been looked forward to the rematch.

"Stevie phoned everybody to try and get a match, and managed to get Claudia Ferenczi, a Slovakian national champion who has fought for two world inter-continental titles."

Allan, who also coaches at Glenrothes, continued: "It was a tough fight. She (Ferenczi) was very durable, but Stevie had a gameplan.

"Emma won every round. She boxed the head off her in every round."

In another success for Glenrothes, Eftychia Kathopouli defeated Ireland's Siobhan O'Leary to win the Celtic Super Featherweight title.