‘I am not being taken for a clown, which is why I have sat it out for two years’ - Liam Walsh on why he is finally ready to make his ring return
PUBLISHED: 15:19 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:19 18 March 2019
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Liam Walsh apologises: we’ve been chatting for a while and he has an appointment in Cromer.
Plumbing, ice cream shops and boxing - it’s a conversation of ifs, buts and maybes as the 32-year-old looks back over a difficult two years which has finally taken a turn for the better.
In a nutshell, Walsh hasn’t fought since losing to Gervonta Davis in May 2017; his contract with promoter Frank Warren ended, he couldn’t crack the politics of boxing to beg, steal or borrow a fight and plumbing became an option if he was to carry on feeding his family.
Ice cream? It’s a business interest he has with older brother Michael and perhaps something to take his mind away from the trials and tribulations he has encountered post-Davis. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Walsh was fighting for the world super-featherweight title against a man moulded by Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather – and at that time one of the most explosive fighters in the sport.
While there was no disgrace in losing, defeat (Walsh’s first) hurt, if not entirely physically – and preceded a black period in his career, the cloud lifting last week when it was revealed he and twin brother Ryan had signed a management deal with MTK Global.
The tale of highs and lows and those ifs, buts and maybes, began at a packed Copperbox venue.
“He was too good for me that night,” says Liam. “I lost to the better man, no problems.
“On the Monday morning I texted Frank just saying ‘my bad – I feel I let everyone down’, which I still do to this day, especially to the fans more than anyone.
“The feeling I had when I walked to the ring was something I had never ever had, it was humbling – all those people supporting me. I will take that feeling to my grave. They say when you die your life flashes in front of your eyes: I hope that will be my final click before it ends because it was unreal.
“In a way, I feel it might actually have softened me a little too. I was almost in awe – little me from Cromer is being supported like that. I could feel it in the air how much support I had. I have always had this underdog mentality, backs against the wall, and I have always managed to get the best out of myself because of that, and I couldn’t even start getting those thoughts on the way to the ring.
“Anyway, I lost, but I didn’t have a mark on me apart from a lump behind my ear. I had been the fittest I have ever been and I didn’t want to lose momentum so I wanted to get straight back out, a 10-rounder an eight-rounder, anything, just stay active and build back for something else. Maybe go to lightweight if there are options there, if not I’d stay at super-feather. I had no problem making the weight. I thought we were all good. Then I got offered a date in December, the night Lee Selby and James DeGale were on the Copperbox bill. Happy days, I thought, May to December wasn’t too bad.
“Sadly, for whatever reason, we couldn’t agree terms and in the end I made the decision to ask for my contract to be terminated and Frank accepted.”
Walsh had spoken to other promoters and had his eye on some decent lights - until plenty of people caught cold feet.
“Was I deemed too dangerous? Possibly. I had just been beaten and in this game if you get beat you are no good any more, which is laughable.”
The fights didn’t come and all of a sudden, Walsh was in limbo. There was an option: to return to small hall shows, flogging tickets himself: morning run, gym, sell tickets, gym, sell tickets, gym. Repeat.
“I just thought, ‘I have four kids now, I am not going to start paying to box’, so I ended up digging my heels in. If I am honest, I just wasn’t committed to going out selling tickets.
“I was offering myself to anyone but it didn’t happen, I didn’t get fights.”
One good offer came up on Sam Sexton’s British heavyweight title bill in Bolton last May – but Walsh had good personal reasons to decline. “I didn’t want to be a messer,” he says.
Was retirement ever on his mind?
“100pc. Loads of times. I have four children and I have to feed them. For one, I have to earn money and two, I didn’t think I would get the opportunity again. I was high risk, no reward. I got some so-called offers – but at three weeks’ notice! No one can do that in that time and be properly prepared. If I did that and went and lost again, then it was definitely all over.
“I am a man of principle and pride and I am not going to go and hang myself out there. If you are not going to be fair to me you can keep it. I am not an idiot, I am not being taken for a clown, which is why I have sat it out for two years.
“Probably being in this neck of the woods hasn’t helped but I would not move away from this area for any money. No one has enough money for me to move away from here. They can forget us moving to Manchester, London or Birmingham and being a groupie, part of the crowd.”
“A good friend offered me a job as a plumber’s apprentice, and I really appreciate that because he is a real friend. He saw the situation, he said he’d give me a full-time job and he’d pay me more than fair because I have no qualifications. It could have fed me and my family. I had that option. Then there’s the ice cream shop in Cromer. But there weren’t a lot of options.”
Until MTK Global came along, rekindling a relationship which had first began a few years ago when Walsh and stable-mates Nathan Dale and Billy Bird trained in Marbella.
“They made us feel really welcome and they were good people and treated us well and even back then I said to (trainer) Graham (Everett) it might be an option.”
That option has become a reality and now both Walsh brothers have reason to smile given it could mean them both appearing on the same bill again.
The targets remain similar, even if they are not exactly similar to what they once were.
“If I didn’t think I could still fight at world level against world champions I wouldn’t be fighting. If not I wouldn’t bother with it. I know I can beat world level fighters, but if I am honest I am at the point where I am older and wiser and I actually don’t care about belts or owning a world title. I want to challenge myself against the best fighters I can – if there is no belt it doesn’t matter.”