(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
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
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
"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
“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
"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
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
The 1988 Irish Olympian and former national team coach praised
Virginia Fuchs, a kinesiologist and personal trainer, for her
“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