Boxing

Seconds Out: Walsh hopes experience can pay off in latest World tilt

Michaela Walsh competed at last year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, and will represent Ireland at the upcoming World Championships in Turkey. Picture by AP
Neil Loughran

AS you grow older, eventually there comes a point when you learn your limits. The weekend past told Michaela Walsh that wisdom was now in her corner.

On a 10 day training camp in Assisi before swapping northern Italy for Istanbul yesterday with the Irish women’s team bound for the upcoming World Championships, sparring was wrapped up at the end of last week.

With Katie Taylor due in the ring for her huge world title showdown against Amanda Serrano around 4am on Sunday morning, Italian time, the inclination might have been to set the alarm and suffer the consequences the following day.

But the west Belfast woman, who boxes out of the Emerald club, has been around too many corners to take any chances. She learnt that from the best too. Now 28, Walsh was only new to the Irish scene when she was proudly calling Taylor a team-mate.

Refreshed from a good night’s sleep after a week’s worth of tough sparring, Walsh ignored all texts and didn’t look near Twitter before enjoying Taylor-Serrano in all its glory. Fights like those can only provide inspiration for the next step on her own journey.

The Worlds get under way in Istanbul on Monday and, having only boxed once since last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo - which came on the back of a couple of disrupted years due to Covid - all Walsh craves now is momentum.

“You’ve sort of been at a standstill.

“Thankfully this year’s busy with the Worlds, hopefully the Commonwealths, the European Championships are later in the year, so that’s three major tournaments. You just want to be in the ring fighting.

“Because of the way the new qualification system works for the Olympics, this year is basically preparing yourself for next year because that’s when things really kick in, in terms of earning points at tournaments.

“I just want to get as many fights this year to build the confidence up because we’ll hardly be at home next year.”

This World Championships will be Walsh’s third as a senior boxer, and she would love to break through the quarter-final ceiling and secure a medal in Turkey.

The motivation, even after so many years on the road, remains too. Assisi has become like a second home to the Irish contingent after so many training camps spent there, but Walsh insists there is always plenty to be gained from those experiences.

“You’re sparring the likes of Brazil, Finland, Italy, so from that point of view it’s great.

“At home I’d be sparring the likes of Kellie [Harrington], Amy [Broadhurst] and whoever else, but you’re comfortable in a way because you know each other inside out and you know what each does good or does bad.

“It’s more of a test when you go away, there’s a few ones I’ve been in with who I haven’t sparred before, so it’s a different challenge, especially when you’re getting ready for a competition like the Worlds.

“Going there, you don’t know who you’re going to be fighting or what style, everything’s on the table really. Even though I’ve been at the Worlds before, there’s always that bit of an edge, the same feelings as you would have going to your first one.

“Everyone feels nervous, everyone feels the same, but the more you go on you learn how to deal with that pressure. There’s a few wee rituals you have to keep you focused, and the more experience I’ve got the more you try to use those nerves for positive energy.

“But I’ve had a great camp out here so I’m buzzing to get going now.”

Walsh isn’t the only Ulster representative eyeing a big performance in Turkey either, with Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers and Ormeau Road’s Carly McNaul also in the nine-strong Irish squad, alongside Dundalk’s Amy Broadhurst, who boxes out of the St Bronagh’s club in Rostrevor.

Unfortunately Olympic champion Harrington misses out after picking up an injury in Assisi.

“I’m devastated not to be competing at the Worlds,” she said.

“Training was going great, and I know I was the woman to beat in Turkey, but timing is everything and there just isn’t enough time to heal before boxing starts. I have to prioritise my long-term health and fitness.

“Qualifying for Paris is still the goal.”

IRELAND SQUAD

48kg: S Sweeney (St Anne’s); 50kg: C Fryers (Immaculata); 52kg: C McNaul (Ormeau Road); 54kg: N Fay (Phoenix); 57kg: M Walsh (Emerald); 63kg: A Broadhurst (St Bronagh’s); 66kg: K Rock (Enniskerry); 70kg: L O’Rourke (Olympic); 75kg: A O’Rourke (Olympic)

Coaches: Z Antia, J Conlan, E Pluck, N Burke

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NATIONAL STADIUM TO HOST UKRAINE FUNDRAISER

THE National Stadium plays host to a fundraising event for #United4Ukraine in aid of the Irish Red Cross on Friday.

A Dublin schoolboy/girls select will go toe-to-toe with their Scottish counterparts at the famous venue, beginning at 4pm. That will be followed a showcase of Irish Elite boxing from 7.15pm, with 24 bouts scheduled as well as dancing, music and an auction.

All monies raised will be donated to fund the Irish Red Cross efforts to repair vital infrastructure, support health facilities and help families with life-saving food and hygiene items in war-torn Ukraine.

“The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) is delighted to be able to provide the National Stadium as host venue for #United4Ukraine,” said IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth.

“It’s important that the Irish boxing family come together to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their time of greatest need. As important as that solidarity is practical support and assistance that boxing on Friday will finance.”

The #United4Ukraine fundraising campaign was established by Smithfield Boxing Club and head coach Igor Khmil, and has already raised over €11,500 through online and offline events such as the auction of Olympic champion Kellie Harrington’s Tokyo vest and Strandja gold medal winning glove.

Boxing clubs across Ireland have also donated subs from training sessions and held tournaments in support of #United4Ukraine.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support #United4Ukraine has received, so far – particularly from the boxing and MMA communities,” said Khmil.

“Kellie’s donation of her Tokyo vest was an amazing gesture. We’ll be reserving over 50 seats on the night for people newly arrived to Ireland from Ukraine, so they can get a sense of the solidarity with Ukraine in Ireland.

“We hope as many people come to the National Stadium to see the incredible quality of Irish boxing, and to donate to an amazing cause.”

Tickets are €10 on the door.

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