Walsh: "I would take the Flanagan fight in a heartbeat."
When Liam Walsh and Paul Appleby waged an unforgettable war for the Commonwealth super featherweight title on the opening night of Boxnation back in 2011 a hoard of travelling fans from the Norfolk village of Cromer squeezed into the upper rafters of London’s grand old York Hall and filled the night air with song.
They watched as Walsh recovered from a seventh round knockdown, and a cut to his face, to force the brave Scotsman into retirement for the night as he successfully defended his title for a second time in thrilling fashion, much to the delight of the ‘Farmy Army’ who fell even deeper in love with their fighting hero that night.
Now unbeaten in 20 fights, the British and Commonwealth champion at 130lbs, and on the verge of a possible world title fight later in the year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the hugely popular 29-year-old must strut around the streets of Cromer like the Lord of the Manor basking in his own greatness, but of course you’d be wrong!
“I’m a promoter’s nightmare, it’s a good job I can fight a bit!” proclaimed Walsh when Boxing Monthly caught up with him earlier this month fresh off a victory over Troy James in London.
“I don’t do Twitter or Facebook or any of the social media stuff, I don’t’ promote myself at all," he said.
“Ryan (his twin brother and British champion at featherweight) is on Twitter and I see the trouble he gets into on there. I don’t understand why you’d want to open yourself up to criticism like that and I can’t think of anything worse than me phone bleeding and buzzing all the time!
“I’m not doing it to be different, maybe I’m a boring bastard but I believe the key to life is happiness and happiness for me is staying away from social media! I have three kids at home and when I’m not in the gym I like to spend time with my family and watch Countdown on TV, I must be old before my time!" he joked.
“When we're in Cromer we get people coming up to us all the time, in fact a few people have come up to me whilst I’m on the phone to you, but I’m not too fond of it. I never know what to say and get embarrassed. If I win a world title, I’ll need a disguise!”
Walsh returned to the more comfortable surroundings of a boxing ring last month at the Copper Box Arena in London’s Docklands where he finally put to bed his much delayed bout with Coventry warrior Troy James. Both men had suffered injuries since the bout first appeared on a British Boxing Board of Control championship circular last year, with Troy injuring his back and Liam undergoing hand surgery after a victory on the Terry Flanagan world title bill in October.
“It felt good to be back” said Walsh, who stopped James in round 8 and in the process shed 10 months of ring rust.
“People said that me and Ryan did well (Ryan successfully defended his British title against Irish puncher James Tennyson on the same show) but I only did what most expected me to do and that is no disrespect to Troy but I was a big favourite with the bookies and most fans.
“Maybe I did well by stopping him, something Terry Flanagan couldn’t do although that was a few years ago now," admitted Walsh.
“And without beating Troy I wouldn’t be in a position to fight on a bigger stage in the future. I said at the press conference that Troy had earned his shot, nobody has given him anything for free. He’s beaten Ronnie Clark and Chris Male and he’s still got a lot to offer in the division in my opinion and I’m interested to see how he does against the likes of Martin J Ward.”
Walsh was amused to learn that the BBBofC had put out to purse bids a match between himself and the aforementioned Matchroom promoted Martin J Ward so soon after the Cromer man had defended his British title against his mandatory contender.
“What’s that all about!?” asked a Walsh, who must face Ward before the end of September to avoid being stripped of his British title.
“I can’t remember the last time anyone was forced to take a mandatory in the space of four months. Eddie (Hearn) and Martin are pushing for the fight and no doubt he believes he can beat me and if he didn’t he’s in the wrong business, but you need to be careful what you ask for. I’d rather have a world title fight next but I don’t think that’s possible in the next four months so let’s do it. I want to keep this British title, make no mistake I want to test myself against the likes of Jose Pedraza (IBF 130lbs champion, and recent victor over Stephen Smith) but no way am I stepping aside so they can fight for a vacant title.
“I feel as though I’m being strong armed or bullied into vacating my British title but if that’s how they want to play it I’ll push back and Ward will find out quickly he isn’t in a British title fight, he’s in against a guy a few levels above what he’s been used to," added Walsh, clearly angered by the thought of vacating his hard earned gold.
It is easy to forget that Walsh has held the British title since 2014 when he defeated Gary Sykes on points at the Excel Arena and has been in championship class since he claimed the Commonwealth strap way back in 2010. His often delayed bout with Troy James and a hand operation have resulted in a frustrating run as British champion with marking time bouts and spurious WBO European title contests, but Walsh feels ready to make an assault on world honours.
“Mike Hayton (Manchester based consultant) did a great job on my hand and it feels better than ever” said Walsh. “Ideally I’d get a world title fight at 9st 4lbs because I feel so strong at the weight and unbeatable, but I would take the Flanagan fight in a heartbeat because I believe I win that fight. People might laugh but I’d take a world title fight up at 10st, that’s how much confidence I have in my ability.”
Walsh is a student of the game and like many boxing fans he was up in the small hours to watch Stephen Smith’s challenge to IBF champion Jose Pedraza at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut in April and was impressed with what he saw as the Puerto Rican skilfully pounded out a points victory over Smith, who many trade insiders tipped to upset the champion.
“I like Pedraza. I watched him against [Andrey] Kilmov and Edner Cherry. That would be a hard fight but I believe at my best I could beat him," Walsh told BM.
“I’m pretty sure I would rise to the occasion and if I’m honest that fight is looking most likely because I have a high ranking with the IBF and I would love to go to America as an underdog and bring that belt home, that would be something else.”
Whilst some boxing trainers are in the spotlight as much as the fighters they train, Graham Everett works tirelessly away from the limelight at his gym in Norfolk and has been with Liam, Ryan and older brother Michael (now retired) since the Walsh clan turned pro. Liam was full of praise for his mentor and believes he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves from the media.
“He worked with Herbie Hide all those years ago and he turned Jon Thaxton’s career around when he came back to Norfolk at 30 years old," said Liam.
“Jon was with the Ingle’s for years and didn’t win anything but when he came back here he won British and European titles with Graham and he never got any credit for that. Graham worked with Sam Sexton when he beat Martin Rogan in two fights in Belfast and when he won Prizefighter in 2008.
“He then brought me and my brothers through. Michael won a senior ABA title and he trained at Graham’s gym all the way through and now me and Ryan are British champions. Maybe because we aren’t in a big fighting city like Manchester or London his achievements have been overlooked, I don’t know if that bothers him, probably not. Over the years he’s done it all himself and only recently got Jon Thaxton in has his assistant.”
It’s widely known that the Walsh brothers arrived in Norfolk from Greater Manchester as youngsters after their father decided that life in the North West of England could lead to trouble, and you can easily picture Liam, Ryan and Michael having wars on the terraced streets of Rochdale as they fought for local supremacy!
“Dad moved us away from Rochdale when we were around 10 years old, he had family in Cromer and thought it’d be a better way of life for us," said Liam.
“He’d lived there (Rochdale) all his life and he could see the way we were going, that we’d end up in trouble. It’s the best decision he ever made because most of the friends we had in Rochdale are either now in prison or have been in prison.”
Walsh revealed to BM that at the age of 29 he feels better than he has ever done and he puts this down to clean living, fresh country air and being a twin!
“I still don’t think I’ve peaked yet. People may or may not know this but it is proven that twins don’t mature as quickly as others. When I was in the high school changing rooms I’d look around and think what’s going on here, if you know what I mean?! I also live the life. I haven’t smoked or drank any alcohol or taken any drugs so I feel great and I’m ready to become a world champion.”