'Unfinished business' driving Michaela Walsh bid for Commonwealth gold

Michaela Walsh will take on South Africa's Phiwokuhle Mnguini in tomorrow's featherweight semi-final after seeing off Keamogetse Kenosi in Birmingham yesterday. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran in Birmingham

TWO-TIME silver medallist Michaela Walsh could feel her knuckles twitching as she waited to enter the fray in Birmingham, and the west Belfast woman insists a sense of “unfinished business” is driving her bid for Commonwealth Games gold this time around.

Having been handed a bye in the featherweight draw, Walsh had to watch the majority of Team NI – including brother Aidan – climb between the ropes at the NEC Arena before finally getting the opportunity to strut her stuff.

And the 29-year-old didn’t have to move out of second gear to get the better of Botswana’s rangy Keamogetse Kenosi yesterday, securing a bronze medal at least and setting up a semi-final showdown with South Africa’s Phiwokuhle Mnguini tomorrow evening.

“It has been a long wait,” she smiled.

“Obviously I am one of the last ones to get out in the ring and I have been just trying to keep my focus and composure and I think I did that - with the years of experience I’ve had I know how to deal with that.

“Just being on the team and being here with my brother it almost means more to me than the medal. The medal is the icing on the cake. The medal itself is materialistic and it represents what I have worked for most of my life and to top it off with a gold medal would be unbelievable. That’s what I’m aiming for.

“The Commonwealths is one of the biggest competitions and I do feel a sense of unfinished business. That is something I am hoping to take care of when I’m here.”

As a wide-eyed 21-year-old she was left devastated by final defeat to English golden girl Nicola Adams in 2014, before suffering the same fate on the Gold Coast four years ago when home favourite Skye Nicolson got the nod.

With her third Commonwealths under way, Walsh feels she has grown as a result of those previous experiences.

“I’ve matured as a person and a fighter. Boxing is only a sport - it doesn’t define who I am, it just adds to who I am.

“I’m very proud of where I’ve got to and I believe if I perform to my best I can win and enjoy it. That’s the main thing; to enjoy my boxing, take things day by day and enjoy life.

“We have been living with each other for so many weeks and going to training camps and the spirit is amazing. We are all close and supportive of each other. I’m proud to be part of this new team and you see the young ones coming through.”

Walsh was glad to be in the ring an hour before Aidan, and took up her familiar station in the stands to cheer him on to victory over England’s Harris Akbar – a win that puts him in the box seat for a gold medal heading into the weekend.

The 25-year-old broke his right ankle and suffered ligament damage in his left ankle after jumping for joy in the seconds after the victory that guaranteed his Olympic bronze medal 12 months ago, and subsequently had surgery on a troublesome hand injury.

But there was no sign of any issues as his fleet-footed style bamboozled Bradford’s Akbar.

“There’s no issue at all,” he said.

“I was obviously out for a long time with a few fights here and there, but I’ve been training flat out. After this I may go into another sport for a while before the Olympics - I’m always training, doing other sports and love to enjoy life outside boxing.

“I’ve been moving like this since I was nine years of age.”