Dean Walsh is back dreaming of representing Ireland at the Olympics and says he’ll knock out anyone that tries to wake him up.
The talented Wexford fighter is a proven outstanding amateur, he’d had four Irish Senior titles and a European bronze to his name by the age of 22 but found himself drifting onto a rocky road after early success.
He felt snubbed by the Irish team and subsequently was overtaken by the likes of Kieran Molloy and Olympic medal Aidan Walsh in the Tokyo cycle.
In the relative boxing wilderness, Walsh found himself losing in National quarter and semi-finals rather than adding to his collection of titles, fighting in Box Cups rather than major tournaments, and dealing with out-of-the-ring issues rather than in-ring opponents.
A pro move was confirmed with Boxing Ireland, but the Wexford man seemed to completely slip away from the sport, until his name started to bleep on the radar, albeit faintly, over the last number of months.
A nigh-on three-year hiatus ended in May and the 28-year-old straight-talking character has already begun to raise eyebrows.
Victory in a box cup in Holland got people talking, a Haringey Box Cup win had people raving and a final win over recent National Elite finalist and close pal, Wayne Kelly in the Celtic Box Cup, had some in-the-know fight followers predicting the Wexford star will be one to watch at the National Elites in January.
“It feels great to be back,” he tells Irish-boxing.com
“I’m enjoying my boxing and still learning every single day. It feels good to be back fighting in big tournaments against elite-level opposition.”
Walsh may be enjoying himself but he hasn’t just returned for the fun of it. Having restored confidence with his performances in the various multi-nations he has entered he has decided to enter the National Elite Championships in January and has set himself a Paris 2024 goal.
“I’m looking to enter the Elites in January at light middle and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. The Olympic dream is back and better than ever. I believe in myself and I believe I can get there. I know it’s going to be tough, as there is a lot of talent around my weight. All I can do is train to the best of my ability and focus on being successful. I believe that will be enough to get me over the line.”
There is a sense Walsh feels he has been given an Olympic chance out of nowhere and as a result is determined to take it. Having taken the road to redemption he is ready to navigate the path to Paris.
“The Olympic dream was dead for me after Rio and after I nearly qualified. it was definitely dead by Tokyo because of my personal problems but things are so good now and that’s behind me.
“I’ve really worked hard on myself. My family, my missus, and her family really believed in me, they never gave up on me and life is so good because of their help. I’m truly blessed with the best.
“It feels so good to have the Olympic dream back it’s been a dream ever since I was a baby. I’m chasing that dream since as far back as I can remember and hopefully, it can happen, please God.”
It’s all well and good having a dream, Walsh knows there is work to be done to make it come true.
The nephew of Billy Walsh feels there are people who will doubt he can still fight at the highest level and knows there are fighters who will try block his path to Paris.
However, if there is one fighter who will enjoy proving people wrong it’s the Wexford man.
“People wrote me off and have been writing me off, that’s fine, everyone is entitled to their opinions,” he adds with a more familiar fight tone.
“But I’ve been training very hard and will continue to train very hard and whoever gets in between me and my goals I’ll have to knock them out of the way. Boxing is a very selfish sport inside the ring and I will be selfish. I’m ready for war with anybody.”
That battling spirit is certainly something the talent used to good effect in the early days. It’s good to see he can still tap into it despite the fact he is in a much healthier head space than before.
The drive is there again too and he reveals the Walsh revival picked up real pace after a confidence-boosting win over an Olympian.
“Until May gone I didn’t have a fight for two years and 10 months. But now I know I’m still up there with the best after being in the ring with 2 time Olympian in Holland. That fight gave me the confidence that I needed. I know I can still compete with the best in the world.
“Since then I’ve been working extremely hard and it’s paying off slowly but surely.”
Walsh also registered a domestic win of note in recent weeks.
“It was a great win against Wayne Kelly,” he continues. “Wayne is a really talented boxer and I’ve nothing but respect for him and his father. We are really good friends outside of boxing. It was great to get the win over him and show I can compete with the best in the world. It was a close fight and I’d like to thank Wayne and his father for a great fight. I wish him the best in the future.”
Like any fighter on the comeback trail or person overcoming personal demons, Walsh has had massive support and a lot of people to be grateful for.
“I want to thank my dad for the hours upon hours he puts into me . Also, my club coaches Nicky, Dom, and Albert. My strength and conditioning coach, my cousin Ryan, my family, my girlfriend, and her family also my friends who continuously support me.”