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Billy Walsh impressed with USA Women boxers ability and the Irish reaction to his departure.
by Michael O'Neill
November 16, 2015
Photo credit:  Stephen McCarthy/

(NOV 16)   For boxers, coaches and fans of the sport in Ireland this has been a ‘crazy’ few weeks what with Michael Conlan becoming the country’s first ever Male World champion in the AIBA World Bantam final in Doha being swiftly followed by the ‘shock’ resignation of Billy Walsh and his subsequently appointment as Head Coach of the United States women’s team in time for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The Irish media was ‘outraged’ – not at Walsh but at their own Irish Amateur Boxing Association for their failure to appreciate Walsh and for failing to offer him a better contract that the meagre salary and benefits package he enjoyed in Ireland. The final parting of the ways was no shock to the Irish public who had been aware of the failure of the IABA to speed up a decision on a contract which had been first mooted more than nine months earlier. Even more astounding was the

fact that the IABA had no need to contribute an extra cent as the country’s “Sport Ireland” authority had already agreed to fund the new deal in its entirety.

"Mentally, it's been very, very stressful over the last eight months. It has taken its toll in some ways," Walsh told the Irish media, on announcing his departure.

"I spent a lot of time crying this morning around this decision, but I think for the best of my health, for my future, it's the best way for me to move on.

"I went back time after time to try and make this work. For my own dignity and respect I felt I couldn't stoop any lower.

"While leaving the Irish Team has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, my sights are now firmly set on my future role with USA Boxing. It is a huge honor for me as a coach to receive the opportunity work with such an iconic sporting nation that is the USA. I am greatly looking forward to the opportunities ahead in bringing my expertise and experience to the USA Women’s Team as they prepare for success in Rio and beyond."

USA boxing’s Executive Director Mike Martino on the appointment:

“Coach Walsh brings extensive experience and knowledge with a proven record of success on the international boxing stage. He provides great leadership and stability for our female athletes, particularly the resident boxers at the Olympic Training Center. His commitment to Olympic-style boxing is evident in the impact he’s had on the Irish boxing program,” said Martino.

“We look forward to integrating Coach Walsh and his international knowledge with the personal coaches across the United States who are responsible for developing and guiding our elite athletes. We appreciate the USOC’s support of our program and goals for the future.”

The USA Boxing statement added: “Walsh joins USA Boxing following 12 years with the Irish Amateur Boxing Program as the federation’s Head Coach and Director of the High Performance Unit. During his tenure, Walsh led Irish boxers to more than 50 medals in the European and World Championships in addition to seven medals in the last two Olympic Games."

Olympic champion Katie Taylor a close friend of both Walsh and the ‘new’ Interim Head Coach, Zauri Antia had this to say on hearing the shock news since Walsh had texted or met with the country’s top boxers before his resignation was made known publically.

"I'm very saddened by the news," the 2012 Olympic champion said. "I genuinely thought it would be resolved. He was so important to me early in my career."

"I'm shocked to think he could be in the opposite corner in Rio," Taylor said “I’ve only seen Billy cry twice in my life, one was after the Olympic games and the other was a few days ago saying goodbye to him. He was absolutely heartbroken by the situation.

“The boxers are going to be the ones affected by the situation. I think for us, he has already set a great path for us. He has left a great legacy behind, that will do us well going into Rio. We’re obviously going to miss him terrible but we just have to stay focused. We’re lucky to have support there and great coaches. Obviously it’s going to be a huge loss for Irish boxing,” she said.

Before setting out for the United States and seeing the American Olympic Trials for women, the Wexford man was pressed on Irish radio re possibility of one of his new charges coming up against Taylor said: “Katie Taylor will be the favourite. I have to get somebody of that quality. Katie will be one girl in the way and I wouldn’t like to be in the opposite corner because I have that much respect for her”

Interim Head Coach, Zaur Antia a close friend of Katie Taylor and her family, paid a glowing tribute to his departing friend Walsh – they had worked together for some 13 years and concluded a lengthy statement thus:

"What you have given us and what you leave here is a big and strong team which will continue your mission and every achievement here, will belong to your name as a team member and leader.

"You will forever be part of the heart and soul of our team and your passion will be present in every step we take. Your fearless and unconquerable spirit.”

So we wondered what did Walsh make of his new charges after observing the Women’s Olympic Trials in Memphis, remembering of course that those who won will represent the United States in the American Confederation championships in Buenos Aires in March.

In a lengthy interview with Team USA’s Karen Rosen this was his summary of the trio who fought their way through the Olympic qualifier in Buenos Aires:

On lightweight Mikaela Mayer, Walsh believes that Mayer’s maturity and experience are her best attributes.

“Mikaela has loads of boxing ability, good hand speed, good movement,” he said.

However, Walsh wants her to work on the extension of her punches.

The 1988 Irish Olympian and former national team coach praised Virginia Fuchs, a kinesiologist and personal trainer, for her great conditioning.

“She has many good attributes,” Walsh said. “I can also see places for her to improve, which is heartening for me. I think there’s a lot of improvement that can happen and needs to happen for her to make it on the international scene.”

Walsh called Fuchs “more of an aggressive southpaw,” and said he hoped to make her more diverse in her boxing.

In working with other U.S. boxers, he said, he’s been impressed by their flexibility, adaptability and ability to learn quickly.

“I think she has a great opportunity,” Walsh said. “She’s beaten one of the stars of American boxing for the last number of years (Esparza), so that should boost her confidence.”

Shields has no lack of confidence, especially with Olympic and world titles to her name.

“She’s an exceptional talent,” Walsh said. “Again, there’s lots of work that she needs to do. Being Olympic champion is one thing, but to retain it is a much more difficult thing because everyone’s been watching and playing catch-up.

“I saw some brilliance in her performances throughout (the trials), but last night (against Tika Hemingway) she was in against someone she’s beaten already a few times and maybe the motivation wasn’t as high as it should have been so there were lapses in parts of her performance.”

The three fighters will have their first chance to secure a berth in the Olympic Games field at the continental qualifier in March in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One or two spots will be available in each weight class. The final qualifier is the world championships in Kazakhstan, where the top four advance.

As he explained to Team USA’s Karen Rosen, Walsh can’t wait to get started with his new charges on Team USA. “I’m not going to take away anything that they already have,” he said. “What they have is fantastic. I’m only going to add to it and try and make them a more all-around boxer who can fight at any distance against any opponent in any place.”

The ‘real story’ behind Billy Walsh’s departing the Irish scene is here: Link

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