The newly crowned British and reigning Commonwealth super featherweight champion did not share the sentiment of others regarding his latest performance, as he warns his rivals that his best is yet to come.
Featuring on Frank Warren’s much anticipated ‘Bad Blood’ bill at the ExCel Arena on November 29th, Commonwealth super featherweight champion Liam Walsh challenged British titleholder Gary Sykes in a unification bout that on paper spelled the toughest challenge to his unbeaten record so far. What materialised however, was a much more one-sided affair than most had expected, with Walsh dropping Sykes in the opening round and going on to comfortably win by wide margins on the judge’s scorecards.
Walsh got the verdict by scores of 118-111, 118-109, and 119-108, with observers from ringside and television sets alike suitably impressed by the Cromer native’s relative ease in defeating his experienced and usually formidable rival. The fighter however was far more critical of his own performance, proving to be his own harshest critic with his assessment of the fight.
“Everyone around me was saying it was (my best performance to date), but I sat down and watched the fight back a few days later and I thought that was nowhere near the case,” Walsh told Boxing Mad Magazine’s Jack Sumner. “I thought I made a lot of mistakes and I wasn’t overly impressed, I wasn’t at the time to be honest, but when I stepped out of the ring my brothers and my trainer were making a big fuss!”
One of three fighting siblings, alongside twin brother Ryan and their elder brother Michael, Walsh has chartered a steady ascent of the British 130lb rankings since his 2008 professional debut. Once-beaten Ryan came to prominence when he gave featherweight standout Lee Selby all he could handle in a close points defeat last year and Michael built a promising 10-0 ledger with 10 knockouts, but chose to retire from the sport in early 2013 after the untimely passing of their father.
It’s Liam however who has thus far proven to be the most impressive of the trio. 2013 saw victories over former world champion Scott Harrison and the unbeaten Joe Murray, before injury and subsequent inactivity halted his progress. He returned in July of this year to dispatch Kevin Hooper in four rounds, a former lightweight who had never previously been stopped, and set up the battle with Sykes with a chance to make a statement on the undercard of the high-profile Chisora-Fury rematch.
Consensus opinion is that Walsh did just that, but the Norfolk man is a grounded individual and isn’t getting carried away. If people were impressed by that he says, then they should look forward to what will come.
“It was certainly nowhere near what I’m capable of producing. I know I need to be better as I move up in levels, but I know that I can be. He’s a very good fighter (Sykes) I’ve always thought that, he was as durable as you’d expect him to be and he showed balls; there was no quit in him after that first round.”
“I think it was my fault to be honest that the fight wasn’t better than it was, I made him look bad and I didn’t think it was a great fight but that’s because I didn’t allow it to be. I switched southpaw and disrupted his rhythm, didn’t allow him to get two or three punches off at a time and did what I had to do to win. There was a lot at stake in this fight, but for my next fight I’m definitely going out there to entertain the fans more!”
Speaking to the amiable 28-year-old, you get a sense that he is eager to make up for lost time. As Walsh will tell you, he’s a young twenty-eight, but setbacks have denied him from being further advanced in his career than he is now. Drafted in as a surprise world title challenger for Ricky Burns’ WBO lightweight crown in December 2012, Walsh was injured in a car accident just a month ahead of the clash and forced to pull out.
Muscle injuries resulting from the accident led to more spells on the sidelines and have restricted Walsh to just four appearances in the last two years. But now as a unified domestic champion and with his all of his bad luck hopefully behind him as he moves into his prime, he can surely allow himself some rest and a mince pie or two over the coming festive period?
“Well I was back in the gym at 7.30 on the Sunday morning so there’s your answer! I really want to kick on now, I have had injuries and a lot of time out over the past couple of years. I’d like to back out again pretty soon in the New Year. I’d love to put four or five fights together in a bit of a run and this time next year hopefully be fringe world-level, not far off challenging for a world title.”
“We’ve heard nothing opponent wise yet, but I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me. Now I hold the British title, if there’s a chance to win a Lonsdale belt outright then that’s something I can target, of course everyone would like to have one of those for the mantelpiece at home! It depends if another opportunity comes my way though. They don’t come around too often in boxing and you have to grab them with both hands.”
And what if another opportunity came at lightweight? Noticeably big at super-feather, many expect Walsh to eventually make a permanent switch up a division.
“I think I’ll finish my career as a lightweight. I walk around at 10’7 or 10’8, I can still make super featherweight no problem and training in a warmer climate helps that.”
“There are people who have suggested I struggle to shift the weight! Every fighter feels terrible before the weight-in though and I can still go into the ring on fight night and feel full of energy and I have the mental strength to do it. As for a move up to lightweight, I spar lightweights anyway and good-sized welterweights. I’ve had great sparring out at Macklin’s Gym in Marbella and I’m improving, raising the bar.”
Walsh plans to head out to Tenerife in January – the base of his last few training camps – and supplement his visits to the Canary Isle with further excursions to the MGM. Exciting times lie around the corner for the British super featherweight and he’s in a good place as 2014 draws to a close. Whether a temporary move to lightweight comes via mince pies and turkey, remains to be seen.