Yes, Gráinne Walsh was reigning welterweight champion and had last year won an EU bronze medal. However, few had actually seen the big-punching Offaly destroyer in action.
On Saturday though, the Spartacus puncher got exposure to a wider audience who were suitably blown away.
Walsh dominated and defeated the talented Ciara Ginty to retain her title, taking the inaugural Jimmy Magee Perpetual Trophy for Best Female Boxer in the process, and was the name on everyone’s lips leaving the National Stadium.
Triple Olympian Paddy Barnes tweeted in admiration, commentator Eric Donovan cooed in awe at a “fifteen-or-sixteen-punch combination”, and the crowd roared their approval.
Walsh however, was her regular down-to-earth, understated self and told Irish-Boxing.com afterward that “I’m always a bit hard on myself, and I was asking in between each round had I won. I was even doubting in my mind, thinking I had lost.”
“I was tired in there, I really had the energy sapped out of me.”
“All credit to Ciara, she was a great opponent, very tough. She’ll go very far in the future, she’s still very young.”
“I’m just so happy to come out of there with the win. The second time is every bit as sweet. I remember the feeling from last year and it’s every bit as sweet. I’m so grateful for this.”
On a personal level, Walsh was delighted to see a large Tullamore contingent in the National Stadium and she noted how “I’m so happy, I’ve never had large numbers here but the crowd at home organised a bus and came up.”
“That kind of support means everything. People see how hard I work and for it to pay off like that is unbelievable.”
“This time I knew I wasn’t going to be outworked by anyone.”
With European and World Championships coming up in Poland and India respectively, it is a massive year for women’s boxing, and Walsh is relieved to have overcome the tricky domestic hurdle.
“That was the pressurised one, that one there,” admitted the 22-year-old.
“We have a trip to America in the next few weeks and that will be good to get some experience over there, three fights.”
“It’s going to be a very busy year and I’m coming off a strong 2017. I feel like I’m in the shape of my life.”
“It’s going to take a lot to beat me.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish – (@ThefIrish)