Boxing

Olympic ace Aidan Walsh closing in on ring return after injuries

Aidan Walsh injured both his ankles celebrating a last eight win at Tokyo 2020 - and now he is looking forward to getting back between the ropes. Picture by AP
Neil Loughran

OLYMPIC star Aidan Walsh is closing in on a return to the ring as he looks ahead to the next chapter of his career in 2022.

Injuries have kept the Monkstown welterweight - a bronze medal winner in Tokyo last summer - from stepping through the ropes since returning from Japan, but the days of doing everything but box are thankfully coming to an end.

Walsh broke his right ankle and suffered ligament damage in his left ankle after jumping for joy in the seconds after the victory over Mervin Clair that secured his place on the podium.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to compete in the semi-final against old foe Pat McCormack, and during his time away rehabbing those injuries, Walsh also had surgery on a troublesome hand injury.

However, with the European Championships and Commonwealth Games on the horizon, the 24-year-old is looking forward to getting back to what he does best.

“In terms of my ankles, there’s nothing I can’t do,” said Walsh.

“I wasn’t in the Ulster elites because I had to get an operation on my hand. I tore a metacarpal in the Olympic qualifier… we just thought it was a bit of pain that would go away, but right through the training camp it was giving me problems, and the same in the Olympics.

“It’s coming on rightly now – I probably would have entered the Ulsters otherwise, and maybe even the World Championships, if it hadn’t been for the hand.

“Thankfully I’m starting back punching this week, so everything’s moving in the right direction.”

With the ankles though, after such a freak injury, Walsh was never going to over-think things.

His counter-punching style relies so much on the ability to move around the ring, constantly pivoting off in different directions, that any long-lasting impact could have been disastrous.

Typically, though, Walsh followed the instructions of medical professionals to the letter – insisting that not once did he fear the worst.

“It never crossed my mind.

“Even when we got back from the Olympics I had another MRI scan on it and that showed there was more damage than initially thought. At that point, you’re just thinking ‘right, what do I need to do here?’

“I knew if I kept the boot on for as long as needed, if I did my exercises religiously, if I did all that was asked of me, it would all be alright. Because of that the recovery was 100 per cent, I think because I literally did everything right.

“I know if I don’t recover right from these kind of injuries, it’ll pop up again somewhere in my career. I can’t afford for that to happen.”

Almost five months after returning from Tokyo, Walsh admits that – despite the disappointment of having his journey cut short – the pride at matching the achievements of one of Ireland’s greatest-ever amateur boxers is a constant reminder of how far he has come, and what he achieved last July.

“When you get the medal, there’s the emotion, then not being able to fight… when you’re at the Olympics, you’re there to win a gold medal. You’re there to fight. If I could’ve fought I would have but it was out of my control. It was physically impossible, so after that you just have to try to take the positives from it.

“I got the medal, I would have loved to change the colour, but if someone had said to me this time last year I’d have an Olympic bronze medal now, I’d have snapped their hand off.

“If someone had said this time next year you’ll be sitting in the same position as a legend like Jim McCourt, somebody who is still spoken about in glowing terms now, and rightly so, then you’d have been delighted.

“You hear of people getting depression coming back from the Olympics, never mind having two major injuries, but coming back to normality, focusing on the things I love, that’s what kept me right.

“I was aware of that going to the Olympics – thinking ‘no matter what happens out here, I don’t want anything to change. I want to try and keep my life as simple as possible’. Outside of boxing I lead a pretty boring life, really.

“I don’t drink, I don’t go to nightclubs or bars, I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend and my family, do things I’ve always done. That’s what makes me happy.”

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Boxing