Loss of Billy Walsh: What has happened since?

The defeat of Katie Taylor in Rio brings boxing back in a full circle. The Rio games and boxing were said to be Ireland’s greatest chance of getting a few medals, but just last week, a week beginning with a scandal ended in disappointment when Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward failed to live up to expectations. Michael O’Reilly was sent home from the games and he played no part in the tournament. Irish boxing has gone backwards in my own opinion and this is largely down to loss of Wexford man Billy Walsh.

 

Billy Walsh left for the USA to train the USA team, where he has made a huge impact already. In fact just last Sunday a headline read in Sports Illustrated ‘Under Billy Walsh’s guidance, USA boxing are experiencing a tremendous turnaround’. Last October, John Treacy who is the CEO of Sport Ireland said ‘We were told there were 20 coaches that could do the job of Billy Walsh’. Although the boxers were bringing in the medals from the European and World Championships, the cracks have only seemed to appear in the last few weeks. Go back to London 2012 for example, Katie Taylor had her dad and coach Pete in her corner. This time around Katie didn’t have her dad in her corner, as well as this Gary Keegan was in the sport setting up the elite systems he has also left the sport. No one have come in to replace these intelligent coaches and this is basically where the problem is.

So let’s break it down into some statistics. In 2012, the Irish boxers took home 4 Olympic medals from London, Katie Taylor won gold, John Joe Nevin won silver and Belfast duo Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan won bronze, 4 years on Paddy Barnes and Katie Taylor were knocked out in their first bouts. Michael Conlan the exception after he won his opening bouts. So it is clear to see the loss of Walsh has had a huge impact on the Irish boxing athletes at Rio. Walsh knows all the boxers inside out from working with most of them from a young age when he helped set up the IABA High Performance Unit.

The question on everyone’s minds is where to know? Personally, I feel that the IABA should do everything to Walsh back but I can’t see him coming back., Katie lost three fights this year, and prior to that she had not been beaten at World or European Level since 2005, so something has changed, what this is I’m not quite sure.

 

However, in saying that Taylor’s age may be catching up with her. In regards to Billy Walsh, Ireland need him to come back, but the thing is he probably won’t, his contract with the USA is long term and Ireland can’t afford to buy it out. However, coach Zuar Antia is a brilliant coach, although he hasn’t got fluent English which may be wouldn’t help the Irish athletes, still though he is up there if not better than Billy Walsh and the IABA should do more for him and work with him as the Irish Independent have reported Canada have come calling for his services. There is quality coaches in Ireland and more needs to be done and the IABA need to scout further to get them involved in the Irish set up.

 

However, in saying that Taylor’s age may be catching up with her, I know that Pete will probably not come back until the family issues are resolved and that seems far away as of now. In regards to Billy Walsh, Ireland need him to come back, but the thing is he probably won’t, his contract with the USA is long term and Ireland can’t afford to buy it out. However, coach Zuar Antia is a brilliant coach, although he hasn’t got fluent English which may be wouldn’t help the Irish athletes, still though he is up there if not better than Billy Walsh and the IABA should do more for him and work with him as the Irish Independent have reported Canada have come calling for his services.

 

The way Irish boxing is now has gone back , the Michael O’Reilly fiasco, Pete Taylor been dropped at Katie’s coach these would all raise eyebrows and something has to be put in place by the IABA so the boxers can perform to the best level.

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