Dean Walsh to link up with Billy Walsh in America ahead of Tokyo Olympic tilt


Dean Walsh isn’t out of the game yet and the Wexford welterweight is set to link up with his uncle Billy in America as he looks to reclaim his position as Ireland’s top 69kg fighter.

Having been dropped from the Irish panel for the European Championships last year, Walsh was beaten in the semi-finals of the Irish Championships this year and is in a process of rebuilding.

The 24-year-old is now planning to fly out to Colorado to train under former Irish Head Coach Walsh.

The elder Walsh, a 1988 Olympian, had lead the Irish team for over a decade, acting as Head Coach and (unofficially) High Performance Director, before leaving for Team USA at the end of 2015.

The IABA came in for huge criticism for the circumstances which led to Walsh’s departure and the Wexford man would have an immediate impact on the American team, with the sleeping giant winning three Olympic medals in Rio and Walsh being named AIBA Coach of the Year for 2016.

Somewhat disillusioned with the situation in Ireland, Dean told Irish-Boxing.com that “I’m going to try get a camp in with Billy for two weeks, that’s the plan, around October”

“It’ll just be myself, I’m not part of the Irish team anymore.”

walsh usa

The younger Walsh roared onto the scene in 2014 and, with his uncle in the corner, won European Bronze in 2015.

Things though, started to unravel, afterwards. A dubious loss to eventual Olympic silver medallist Lorenzo Sotomayor at a qualifying tournament preceded Walsh being sent home from the event in Turkey and fined €5,000 (later rescinded) due to ill-discipline.

While he won the next Senior Championships, up at the new weight of 69kg, Walsh was not brought to the European Championships in Ukraine, with a failure to fulfil training requirements being the reported, but unconfirmed, reason.

In February he was beaten in the semi-finals of the Irish Championships by Kieran Molloy and Walsh now needs to start again

It’s tough at the top end of Elite sports and past achievements, sometimes, don’t count for much.

The individual nature of the sport of boxing – and the embarrassment of talents Ireland currently possesses – has Walsh under no illusions.

He noted how “I feel like another John Joe Joyce. He won his four or five Senior titles and then when he didn’t win the Senior title, when [Phil] Sutcliffe stopped him, that was it. Even though he fought at the Olympic Games, all the hours he put in.”

“Kieran Molloy is a great boxer and, even though I’m older than him, I’ve always looked up to him because he’s a great talent a great southpaw.”

“There’s Aidan Walsh, there’s Paddy Donovan, there are four or five fighters there but only one makes it. No matter which way you approach things, only one of us is going to make it out of Ireland. That’s what it boils down to.”

“I think that if I believe and perform, I can do it. You have to believe in yourself and I didn’t believe in myself the last time.”

While still only 24, Walsh is the ‘old man’ of the division in Ireland and some have suggested that he is fighting a losing battle as a new conveyor belt of talent comes through.

A move to the pro game is constantly mooted and Walsh confirms that this talk is more than just idle rumour. However, it is the five rings rather than the pro ring which drives the St Ibar’s man on.

“As much as I wanted to go pro, with the wages and all that, I want to go to the Olympic Games,” he reveals

“It was [a temptation], I’d started to spar pros – it’s a different game. I was asked to go pro by Assassin Promotions, by people in Sheffield but I’m going to stay in the amateurs, I want to make it to the Olympic Games.”

The Olympics are everything for Walsh who looked on in anguish at the Rio Games where Sotomayor took 64kg silver while another former conquest, Vitaly Dunaytsev, won bronze.

“That hurt, the Olympic Games,” he admits. “Every single day it’s getting worse but at the same time it’s getting better because it makes me want it more.”

“I want to win, I want to qualify for the Olympic Games, I want to walk out there at the Olympic Games, it’s the dream, and then I’ll focus on the medals.”

If Walsh is going to make it to Tokyo in 2020 he’s going to have to do it the hard way.

walsh ringside

The yellowbelly was speaking to Irish-Boxing.com following a win over Crumlin’s Peter Carr on the St Catherine’s Charity Show at the Ringside Club, itself coming a month after Walsh’s runners-up finish at the Haringey Box Cup in London.

It’s all Elite boxing but there is a bit of a culture shock for Walsh who is committed to getting back to the very top.

He explained how “going to the Haringey Cup, I remember winning the Senior title in 2014 and guys from my club were going to it while I was going to World and European Championships, the Chemistry Cup, Feliks Stamm, Strandja.”

“I got beat in the Senior Championships and now I’m going over to it. It’s a second-tier tournament – don’t get me wrong, there are very good boxers there, just it’s hard after four or five years at the top championships.”

Despite his name, Walsh won’t be receiving any favours – evidenced by his dubious 3-2 split-loss in London to Paul Gordon.

“It was a bad decision,” he reflects

“Even though it’s only a major club tournament and I’ve been at World and European Championships. it sickened me.”

“I boxed well in the semi-final against a harder guy. In the final I was walking him down even though he was 6’3″, 6’4″.”

Size will matter for Walsh who plans to fight at the Eindhoven Box Cup and Celtic Box Cup this Autumn.

Moving up to welterweight is a gradual process and he aims to finally be 100% at the weight when next February comes.

He detailed how “I was always walking around at 67-68kgs and I’d tighten to 64kg for the Senior Championships and feel great but then I just got to 65kgs and I felt drained. At the [2017] Seniors, so, I weighed in at 67.5kg both times.”

“Now I’m around 70kgs, I’m working at the moment, building timber frame houses, always working. I’ll be back with my strength and conditioning coach and will be on meal plans, I want to get up to around 73kg and be a strong 73kg.”

The Wexford Town man is committed to being the best he can be as he seeks to reclaim top spot ahead of the combined European Championships and Games and the World Championships which are an Olympic qualification event.

Camp with Billy in Colorado is just one part of that, but he feels that being back in a high performance environment could be the missing ingredient.

Team USA have won 25 medals from the 43 senior boxers entered into major tournaments since Billy Walsh’s arrival [Ireland’s record: 9 from 40] and Dean feels he will benefit from sparring with the likes of Freudis Rojas and Quinton Randall.

dean Walsh

Walsh explained how “I asked could I go over and I’m paying my way over, the club is going to help sort out everything. I’m so grateful for the help they’ve given me along with my family and my girlfriend.”

“I need that break away too. When I was with the Irish team I was always in training camp. I believe that training camps are what you need, mixing with top guys from other countries.”

“Since last year I haven’t had a ‘camp’, I’ve just been in my own club, on my own, training by myself.”

“I feel that I’m missing out on that high level stuff and I feel that this camp will change that if it happens.”

“Hopefully everything goes to plan and it all works out and the trip comes through because I’m really looking forward to it.”

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]