'I want the devil to come out' - Ryan Walsh ahead of world title bid

Ryan Walsh faces Maxi Hughes in Leeds

Ryan Walsh - ready for his world title challenge - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Ryan Walsh expects to walk into a cauldron of white-hot noise in Leeds on Saturday – and couldn’t be happier. 

The man from north Norfolk has gratefully accepted the challenge of taking Maxi Hughes’s world lightweight title from him. 

The pair square off in Leeds as chief support to the main event, Josh Warrington v Kiko Martinez. 

Walsh knows both hometown boys will have the majority of the crowd on their side, but believes the hostile atmosphere will play into his hands. The 35-year-old has sampled pretty much everything a boxing crowd can throw at an opposition fighter: this will be no different for someone whose focus is on just one of the locals - Hughes.

Ryan Walsh faces Maxi Hughes in Leeds for the world title

Ryan Walsh - focused on his world title challenge - Credit: Brittany Woodman

“I’m a nice guy, I am not a bully but I beg them to get the devil out in me,” said Walsh with a smile. 

“Every time I have been disrespected by someone they have had to pay, so I want the devil to come out – it has to come out. 

“If the fans can bring it out of me, if Maxi can bring it out of me... thank you.” 

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Walsh is a deep thinker about boxing and life in general: the psychology of man is never far from his thoughts so what might be regarded as one of the base instincts of man v man carries more meaning than most. 

His boxing career has seen success interspersed with the odd disappointment: a European title challenge which went the way of home opponent Dennis Ceylan in Denmark in 2016 is clearly an itch he has yet to scratch properly, and there have been fallow periods when no one wanted to fight him simply because he was too dangerous an opponent. It has left Walsh with not a smidgeon of entitlement. 

Ryan Walsh faces Maxi Hughes in Leeds

Eyes on the prize - Ryan Walsh - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Would victory on Saturday be deserved for everything he has gone through? 

“No,” he says immediately. “It is something I have worked for. I tell my children, life is not about getting what you deserve, it is getting what you work for.” 

He uses Hughes as an example, citing his 2019 defeat to Walsh’s twin brother Liam. 

“He was retired that night Liam beat him, I saw that, and to turn it around, full credit, I tip my hat to you,” he said. 

There’s a ‘but’. 

“But there’s a reason he can’t beat me – he has been in phenomenal form, but none of the people he has fought is like me. They haven’t got my mindset, they haven’t got my pedigree - I don’t like talking about myself like that, but the truth is, look at his last five opponents and my last five opponents and I think mine are a little bit better.” 

Walsh has jumped two weights from featherweight – a natural move at the age of 35 and one which he is glad to have made. 

“Getting an extra nine pounds is a big, big help,” he said. “Anyone who knows my story knows I have never made weight an excuse for my losses or anything. But the next time you see me at nine stone I will be dead a couple of weeks in a coffin.  

“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. My vices are a bit of food, but how I made nine stone without cheating, without any help I don’t know. 

“It has been an eye opener - I didn’t realise how far into the well I was going.” 

Make no mistake, this is all about Ryan Walsh challenging Ryan Walsh. He digs deep into the memory bank to explain. 

“When I was an amateur I walked into a room and there was a trophy there and I told my brother and my dad, there is just no way I am coming out of this room without that,” he says. “I won that fight and I believe I am in the same mindset that I was 20 years ago. When I walk into the ring and I see that belt, it is mine – and I am willing to do things that he isn’t willing to do in that ring to get it. And I was willing to do things out of the ring, which I have been doing, which he isn’t willing to do.”