The bigger the occasion the better the Callum Walsh display.
That’s the way it’s proved so far in the Cork man’s career and it didn’t change in New York on Thursday night.
‘King’ looked right at home headlining at the Theather in Madison Square Garden, producing under the spotlight as he secured another early step-up win.
Indeed, the Cobh native lit up the famous venue with an all-action innings that had the Irish on their feet and Tom Loeffler and Dana White dreaming of going to the main Garden arena.
Ismael Villarreal played his part in generating that atmosphere ensuring a real sense of jeopardy for the first time in the much-fancied prospects career.
The ‘Bronx Beast’ wasn’t going to be tamed easily and gave Walsh a genuine test in an extremely entertaining fight. Indeed, the American scored a knockout down in the final stanza, with Walsh hitting the canvas for the first time in his career , albeit more in fatigue than pain.
However, Walsh always looked the likely victor and after 10 high octane action-packed rounds, the 22-year-old Irish fighter emerged victorious 97-92, 97-92, 96-93.
Walsh set a high pace from the off and put the pressure on the New Yorker. Short sharp strong bursts in the second round in particular, looked to do damage and at that stage, another early stoppage looked on the card.
However, Villarreal showed why he was billed as a big step up in the third. Having absorbed the early onslaught he looked to push Walsh back and landed some right hands over the course of an entertaining three minutes.
In a bid to ensure momentum didn’t swing the way of the Bronx native Walsh came out firing in the fourth, even shaking off a low blow to let his hands go, working at a pace that suggests he has real confidence in his fitness.
The entertainment continued into round five much to the delight of a vocal and large Irish contingent, although they may have been slightly concerned with some of the right hooks Villarreal was landing between solid Cork attacks.
Walsh looked to put the first real dent in his opponent in the sixth but true to the nature of the fight, Villarreal recovered and even finished the round looking for work.
The champion, who seemed to be loving the action, got behind his jab in the seventh, possibly to recoup and recharge for a strong finish. He showed he could box from range in the process and possibly ensured the very game and capable Villarreal needed a knockout down to win in the process.
The local fighter, who was competing out of the away corner, flirted with getting that knockdown seconds before the bell to end the eight. The Freddie Roach-trained Walsh had him pinned against the ropes, but he landed a short left hook flush to ask questions of the Munster man’s balance.
The action continued down the stretch with Walsh smiling as he punched speedball style toward a nodding opponent. At one stage it looked as if the American was hurt as the more powerful Walsh landed flush. However, he was there in the last where the referee awarded him a knockout and game for a bombs away finish after being called on by the Irish action junkie.
Walsh improves to 9-0 after win, Villarreal loses for just the second time, his previous defeat a split decision reverse to the current IBF USBA champ.