IRISH head coach Billy Walsh has quite rightly won the praise of the nation for helping to steer Irish boxing to a record breaking
four medals – one gold, one silver and two bronze – at the 2012 Olympics in London.
The silverware arrived four years after Walsh and Georgia-born Zuar Antia, who was working Ireland’s corner at London 2012 along with Pete Taylor,
helped Irish boxing to three medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
That’s seven Olympic boxing medals out of the total of eight that Irish sport has won at the last two Olympiads.
However, what is little know about Manchester-born Walsh, who has lined out for the Wexford Gaelic football and hurling teams,
is that he has worked the corners of boxers that have won medals at the last three Olympics.
In 2004, Limerick southpaw Andy Lee and Amir Khan were the only two boxers from Ireland and Great Britain to qualify
for the Athens Games.
Because both nations only had one pugilist each in Athens they were only allowed one coach each. However, Walsh and Team GB coach Terry Edwards circumvented that restriction by agreeing
to help out in each other’s corners.
Khan went on to win silver and Lee went out on a countback at the last-16 stage. Likewise, Walsh has worked the corners of
eight medal winners at the last three Olympics.
It’s no wonder that the Wexford man, a seven-time national champion and ex Irish Olympian, and Antia, a six-time national champion and former USSR coach, are the envy of
the amateur boxing world.
As ex Irish Olympian and WBA champion Barry McGuigan put it; “they are doing something seriously right.”
Ireland, meantime, also finished in fifth position at London 2012 behind powerhouses Cuba.
In fact, if Cuban bantamweight Robeisy Carrazana-Ramirez hadn’t won the 56kg gold, Ireland would have finished in joint 4th position with a country, namely Cuba,
many believe has had the greatest influence on amateur boxing worldwide for the last 40 years.
Moreover, the Ukraine and Russia were just above Ireland in the top five in medals table. Both the Ukraine and Russia paid Irish boxing the highest compliment
by indicating that they are reluctant to invite us back into their training camps anymore. The word back was that our squads are learning too much.
Ireland had trained and sparred with Russia immediately prior to the 2008 Beijing Games in Vladivostok, which, when translated, means “to conquer
the East”. The 2008 Olympic team certainly did that in Beijing, taking home one silver and two bronze medals.
Ireland then went into training camp with the Ukraine, who topped the medals table at the 2011
AIBA World Championships, and claimed one gold, one silver and two bronze from London 2012.
Walsh’s and Antia’s futures has been speculated on since the Irish team arrived home from London. Walsh is
reluctant to speak about same.
However, if Irish sport is to win medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics then it is imperative that we retain our top people
both inside and outside the ring.
The last thing that Irish sport needs in Rio is to look into the opposing corner and see Walsh and Anita with a bucket and sponge handing out advice
to the opposition, the type of advice that has helped secure seven of our eight medals at the last two Olympics.
And we won’t even mention their astonishing record at World, European, EU and Multi Nation level. They are doing something “seriously right.”
Meanwhile, while Katie Taylor won gold and the Best Female Boxer of the London Games, Irish boxing achieved another historic first
at the 30th Olympiad.
Michael Gallagher scooped the Best Referee and Judge (R&J) of the 2012 Games Award. Gallagher, who won the Best AIBA World R&J Award in
in 2011, was taken to hospital in London with a stomach illness last Thursday.
Speaking last night he said that he hopes to be released from hospital on Friday. Everyone involved with Irish boxing wishes the Tyrone native a speedy recovery.
Billy Walsh deserves all the praise