'Let's do it, let's find out' - Michael Walsh reveals British title ambition
PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:34 17 December 2019
Michael Walsh has set his sights on a British title - opening up the possibility of a stunning piece of boxing history for the north Norfolk boxing family.
Twin brothers Liam and Ryan were once the first twins to hold British titles at the same time - and the possibility of all three wrapping the Lonsdale belts around their waists at the same time is very real.
Ryan holds the British featherweight belt, former British super-featherweight champion Liam is back on the path as he rebuilds his career - and Michael has suddenly burst on to the scene after a remarkable return to the ring.
After four years out, the 35-year-old took just 125 seconds to take his record to 12 wins out of 12 - all inside the distance - when he beat Sean Davis on Monday at the Holiday Inn Norwich North. In normal circumstances, given his knockout record, this might not have been totally unexpected - but the back story is equally jaw-dropping.
When Walsh's young son Liam was born two years ago, his heart was 20pc the size it should have been. Young Liam has endured several major operations - and it's not over yet. The toll on anyone would be immense, but his father readily admits he came close to breaking. But boxing, the salvation of so many troubled souls, was there as an outlet. He exploited it, initially as a way to distract his mind, before it became obvious to trainer Graham Everett that the fire within Walsh's belly still burned brightly. A return to the ring went from pipe dream to reality - and an idea was born: to combine an unlikely return to the sport with a charitable effort to raise money for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Great Ormond Street Hospital, where young Liam has received vital treatment.
Walsh's efforts could end up raising as much as £10,000 - he made nothing out of beating Davis, but his efforts snowballed and money came in from all directions.
In the aftermath of victory, every Walsh victory is an emotional journey, but rarely can the answer to one simple question have been so keenly anticipated: will you fight on?
The answer was unequivocal: "Yes- I want the British title."
Time isn't perhaps on Walsh's side, so he needs the British Boxing Board of Control, who facilitated his return so efficiently, to fast track him. For a man who has 12 stoppages out of 12 on his record, it should be a no-brainer to put him in the frame, to give him a chance.
"We all know at my age I need fast-tracking, I feel 21 but I know I'm not. But I will fight anyone at nine stone, apart from my brother Ryan," he said.
"Let's do it, let's find out. I have 12, 18 months left - my dad always said I could win the British title so let's see if I can do it, one last crack at it. I have never run away from the British title - I just haven't been offered it, not even an eliminator."
Former English champion Davis is a tough campaigner, but Walsh carried on where his career had left off: he put the man from Birmingham on the canvas three times before referee Lee Cook brought it to an end. The official donated his fee and expenses to the hospital charities: his second most charitable act of the night was to prevent Davis taking any more punishment.
Walsh's ring walk had taken him through the entire family - another spark to the flame.
"When Sean Davis went down for the last time I leant over him and said sorry," said Walsh. "I have never tried to hit anybody as hard as that in my life because of the fact I held my boy on the way out. It was too much and I when I got in there I was thinking bad thoughts to Sean Davis and for that, Sean Davis, I apologise. I would have taken his head off if I'd had half a chance.
"And I wasn't getting beaten in front of the kids. There are 11 boys - eight boys and three brothers and I couldn't lose for our team."
And then it was time for the thank-yous: "I need to thank Graham Everett and Jon Thaxton and (promoter) Mervyn Turner, the Three Musketeers. I will be indebted to them for the rest of my life for what they have done for my family. I couldn't have done it without them.
"I didn't want anything out of this show. I don't like anyone giving me anything, everything I have ever had I have fought for and today Mervyn gave me everything. He gave my little boy a good chance and gave something to those hospitals that have helped him."
Everett and Turner were able to enjoy the silver lining that Walsh gave them after a fraught build-up to the latest Norwich boxing show.
While Walsh topped the bill, cruiserweight Iain Martell was left high and dry after three fighters pulled out on him.
Liam Goddard also lost an opponent but was matched with stablemate Duane Green over six rounds, while Wisbech's Joe Steed stepped in for an exhibition against Nathan Graham.
"It was a really awkward few days," said Everett. "But the reality is we have to pick ourselves up and move forward. We are not quitters, that's not what boxing people do.
"There is something nice in the pipeline for Iain in the new year - he is too difficult to match. People aren't going to come and do you a favour because he is going to smash them so it is a difficult situation."
Clearly the man on everyone's minds was Walsh.
"Michael... what can we say?" asked Everett, who played a major role in Walsh's return.
"Michael came to the gym four months ago. We had a conversation on the phone. He said he was really down, depressed, struggling with the situation with little Liam. First and foremost being his friend I said 'just come to the gym, come and have a train. The plan was three times a week, which turned into every day, weekends off. He was sick, he was struggling, it was hard and he just had to push and push. To be fair, he never broke. Three weeks in he started talking about fighting again. Four weeks in, no chance, and then I started looking at him, body sparring and a couple of open spars and I just thought, 'you know what? Let's do this'.
"The long and the short of it is we have ended up here tonight. It wasn't so much about the boxing, this was about us doing a good thing, making a difference and being right by people.
"And Michael... if he can't win a British title I will be surprised, he is so heavy handed. Sean Davis is a good, experienced fighter and he has obliterated him in a round."