Boxing

Ryan Burnett 'really proud' of ex-club-mates Aidan and Michaela Walsh ahead of Olympic bow

Aidan and Michaela Walsh will become the first brother and sister to box at the same Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

FORMER world champion Ryan Burnett hopes the Walsh siblings, Aidan and Michaela, can go all the way to claim medals at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The boxing competition gets under way on Saturday, with welterweight Aidan expected to be in action on the opening day, while featherweight fourth seed Michaela awaits Thursday’s draw to discover when she steps between the ropes.

Having already made history by becoming the first boxing brother and sister to qualify for the Olympic Games, Burnett will be cheering them on from back in Belfast.

The siblings were club-mates of Burnett at the famous Holy Family club earlier in their careers, and the 29-year-old – who hung up his gloves two years ago – insists he isn’t surprised to see them grace the Olympic stage.

“Both of them always had this determination about them,” said Burnett, who picked up gold at the 2010 Youth Olympics.

“You could tell they were really hard working and they’ve stuck at it the whole way through. Look at where they are now, ready to box in an Olympics together. It’s fantastic, I’m really proud of them.

“I’d love to see both of them get a medal, they both deserve it because they’re hard working, good people – and they’re well capable of it.”

Aidan Walsh has previously admitted Burnett was a personal hero coming up through the ranks, with the pair sparring countless rounds.

And the former WBA and IBF world bantamweight kingpin recalls watching as both siblings improved dramatically over time.

“At the start, when I used to spar with Aidan, it was always like me playing about with a kid.

“But over the years he just kept getting better and better, and then one time we sparred and he got the better of me – he gave me a few digs in the chops, and I had to get really serious with him, just to be able to hold my own. That day always stayed with me.

“From then, he has just kept progressing and improving, and it’s the same with Michaela. When they first came I was always a lot more skilled but then they just kept catching up with me, bit by bit.”

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Boxing