Olympic doubt 'very scary' for future of boxing: Billy Walsh

Former Irish head coach Billy Walsh, who is now in charge of Team USA, fears for the future of amateur boxing. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

FORMER Irish head coach Billy Walsh fears for the future of amateur boxing if the sport is no longer part of the Olympic Games.

Following years of turmoil, amateur boxing’s Olympic future was plunged into further doubt on Sunday when world governing body, the International Boxing Association (IBA), voted emphatically against permitting a leadership challenge to current president Umar Kremlev.

In doing so, it is widely assumed that any hope of the sport securing a place on the programme for Los Angeles 2028 have been shattered – with the International Olympic Committee having previously expressed "grave concerns" over the IBA under Kremlev's leadership.

Wexford man Walsh boxed for Ireland at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and would go on to lead Irish teams at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games before taking up a role as head coach with Team USA ahead of Rio 2016.

And he fears this latest development could cause irreparable damage to the sport.

“It is very scary,” said Walsh.

“The Olympic Games has always been the Holy Grail for boxers. I was 16 when Hughie Russell won his bronze medal in Moscow, and it’s really around those times you start to think… I was an apprentice fitter at the time, and I remember the boss man came around the factory floor one day and he said to me ‘why aren’t you at the Olympics?’

“He didn’t know I was too young, but that moment hit me. It was the first time I really thought ‘why can’t I go to the Olympics?’ From then on I pursued that dream, and eight years later I got there. The Olympic Games has been a huge part of my life ever since.

“Those moments, that’s what inspires kids to go to clubs, to want to start boxing. Look at Katie Taylor – she inspired thousands of girls around the country and further afield. Even here in America, you ask a lot of them who’s their favourite boxer and it’s Katie Taylor.

“She was the flagbearer for years, but without that, how many of those girls may not go into boxing gyms?

“It’s very frustrating because, at the end of the day, it’s young boxers around the world who are suffering because of the inadequacy of the people above them.”