Dean Walsh – “I just let the haters talk”

Dean Walsh has never looked better in an Irish ring than on Friday night.

The Wexford fighter won his fourth Elite title, and first at his new weight of welter, with a unanimous decision win over Brett McGinty.

It was a smart performance from Walsh who managed to effectively negate the size advantage of the youngster and outland him throughout, taking the Boxer of the Championships award in the process and justifying his choice to move up in weight.

Afterwards Walsh said that “to tell you the truth, the way things were going for the last eight or nine months, I didn’t think I was going to box well. I thought I was going to be a bit sloppy like last week, but it all went to plan today.”

“He doesn’t punch hard but he’s physically strong. I thought I caught him a few times and could have given him a standing eight count if I kept going but I didn’t want to waste it. Compared to my fight last week and the week before, I boxed really, really well. I just kept punching and moving.”

2016 was a tough year for the St Ibars man who recalled how “I came back from the Olympics qualifiers and thought that I should’ve won the fight. The fella who beat me [Lorenzo Sotomayor, Azerbaijan] went on to win the Olympic silver. I was a bit depressed. I was coming back up to squad training, coming back to the Leinsters, the all-Irelands, when you could have been on the plane to Rio.”

“It took it out of me until about six or seven weeks ago. I just want to thank my Da [Donal Walsh] because he just kept on pushing me. We fell out every day since. ‘Get up out of bed, train, train, train.’”

“I’ve fallen out with him for the last eight months but it’s after paying off. It’s only for him, I won’t say I would’ve packed it in, but I would’ve been too lazy to train and I wouldn’t have boxed that well.”

22 year old Walsh now wants to step up to the plate as one of the leaders of a new-look Irish team going forward into the Tokyo Olympic cycle and wanted to reassure fans that Irish boxing is still as strong as ever. He noted that “it’s weird, isn’t it? In the space of six or seven months, Conlan gone and Barnes gone. Joe could’ve been gone. I think Davey Oliver Joyce is gone, Katie Taylor’s gone, it’s mad because I was the baby.”

“There was me and Brendan Irvine who were just the kids. I think I was even more of a kid because Brendan had a European [Games] medal in the bag and was ranked seventh or eighth in the world. Now I’m one of the big boys. Me, Sean McComb, Joe Ward.”

“It’s not true [that Irish boxing is in decline]. It’s all a bit of luck. You can go out there and have a bad day. That’s boxing. You have to be on form on that day and anyone can beat you, anyone can. We just had a bit of a bad run in the Olympic Games. It’s still all down to the luck of the draw.”

Walsh can be called a Yellow Belly in the sense that he hails from Wexford, but that’s where it stops, and he dismissed the accusations of actual cowardice which he has received in recent weeks.

He explained how “I got that ‘you’re avoiding Sean McComb, you’re avoiding this, you’re avoiding that.’ I went out and boxed against Tiernan Bradley and had Sean McComb’s friends shouting at me. I didn’t skip Sean McComb. I said on a Monday that I was going 69kg, Steven Donnelly pulled out that Thursday. I avoided nobody.”

“I could have made 64kg, but I was killed at it. I just let the haters talk, let them talk, talk, talk, talk. I’d like to thank everyone who also supports me, and the rest can all hate.”

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: joneill6@tcd.ie