The Belfast bantamweight became the first Irishwoman not named Katie Taylor to win a major senior international gold medal as strode to the top of the podium at the EU Championships in Cascia, defeating German Azize Nimani in Saturday’s final
Walsh won four fights in Southern Italy, all by unanimous decision, to deservedly take 54kg gold and return to centre stage as one of Ireland’s leading lights.
A tough 2016 saw Walsh miss out on the Olympic Games, being forced out of the qualifiers in Turkey and Kazakhstan as her body struggled to make the 51kg flyweight class – then one of only three Olympic weights for women. The Monkstown fighter subsequently missed out on the 2017 Elite Seniors due to a rib injury and her most comfortable weight, bantamweight, was initially not going to be sent to the EUs.
However, there was a change of heart at the IABA, and boxers fighting at non-Olympic weights were added to the panel. It certainly would pay off as Walsh romped to gold while light flyweight Kristina O’Hara lost a controversial fight against an Italian for bronze. Light welterweight Ciara Ginty would withdraw from the squad.
24 year old Walsh told Bernard O’Neill that “at that start, it was the Olympic weights that were picked. Then they (IABA) decided to include me, Kristina and Ciara.”
“The IABA thought we were strong enough to go and they made the right decision”
“I knew going here that I was able to get a gold medal, I came back with a bang.”
“It was tough enough, but I came through, so I did. I’ve been working very hard. In the past I got bad decisions and bad draws, but this one, I wasn’t letting anyone take it away from me.”
This past week will be Walsh’s last time at 54kg as she plans to move up to featherweight (57kg), a weight which has been added to the Commonwealth and Olympic programmes.
First up will be the Ulster Senior Championships, which will act as a selection tournament for the Commonwealth Games next year in Australia where Walsh will be looking to improve on her silver won in Glasgow in 2014.
The Olympics remains the main dream though, having missed out last year, and Walsh outlined how “I’m trying to get as much international experience as I can [ahead of Toyko 2020].”
“Every fight is step toward that. That’s the main goal and the main focus.