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'Boxers are really good liars, they have to be' - Liam Walsh and the art of deception

PUBLISHED: 14:38 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 06 November 2019

Liam Walsh on the punch bag Picture: Mark Hewlett

Liam Walsh on the punch bag Picture: Mark Hewlett

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Liam Walsh spoke to head of sport Chris Lakey ahead of his fight against Maxi Hughes at the iconic York Hall venue this weekend.

Liam Walsh - one of boxing's deep thinkers Picture: Mark HewlettLiam Walsh - one of boxing's deep thinkers Picture: Mark Hewlett

Liam Walsh ponders the question and delivers a bit of a surprise response. Much like the telegraphed right hand that never comes, but is, instead, replaced by a left hook sucker punch.

"We're liars and cheats," sums up the fighters' thoughts, "because we have to be."

The art of boxing isn't just in being a better fighter than your opponent: it's the weeks of build-up when psychological blows are thrown between camps miles apart. It's the art of making the ring walk look like a cake walk. It's the art of making yourself, metaphorically speaking, bigger than your opponent in every way. The art of deception.

"Boxers are really good liars, they have to be," says Walsh. "You walk into a ring in front of thousands of people pretending you are loving it all, and most of the time you can be... but nine out of 10 are actually scared to death. You are tricking people, you are constantly lying, and when you are in the ring it is the art of being deceptive, you are throwing a feint at them to tell them you are doing that and then you come at them with a different punch.

Liam Walsh sparring in Norwich Picture: Mark HewlettLiam Walsh sparring in Norwich Picture: Mark Hewlett

"It's in everything you do. If two men are looking at each other and there is no deception no one is going to out-better the other man. Everyone knows the standard punches, your left, right, your left hook. If you are both looking at each other and throwing the punches you should throw, no one is really going to do anything to each other without putting a feint in there, without adjusting slightly."

The deception instinct arises from the first question boxers are usually asked: how's camp been? The answer is always the same - again, a touch of deception says Walsh.

"Like all camps it has been going good, training has been good, everything's good, but like all camps you do pick up injuries on the way. All the fighters who say this is the best I have ever felt, you tell yourself that all the time, psychologically, because that is what we do."

Walsh won't be caught out by any deception from Maxi Hughes, whose CV belies a dangerous foe.

Liam Walsh sparring - watched by elder brother Michael at ringside Picture: Mark HewlettLiam Walsh sparring - watched by elder brother Michael at ringside Picture: Mark Hewlett

"He is a lot better than he has ever been credit for. I know he has lost at British title level but if you watch that fight, and I have watched it numerous times, he lost to Martin J Ward who was a world amateur champion, so you are not talking about a standard British level fighter."

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Hughes' record shows 19 wins, four defeats and two draws, but Walsh insists those numbers aren't what counts.

"The main thing in boxing - rather than your CV, your record, your age - is the one massive word that never ever gets used and that is ambition. How much ambition has he got? From everything I am seeing and hearing from people close to him he has a lot of ambition.

Liam Walsh - all business ahead of his fight with Maxi Hughes Picture: Mark HewlettLiam Walsh - all business ahead of his fight with Maxi Hughes Picture: Mark Hewlett

"He has just had 12 months out of the ring, he is refreshed, he has gone up a weight, similar to myself, he has had a little baby girl in the meantime - things like that make a big difference. I remember each child I have had, it gives you a lift, each time you are fighting for something else. He came back and fought someone who was 12-0, won by a knockout at lightweight and he is in a good place, he is buzzing. He has changed his team, he has got a new trainer, new managers so he will be giving his all to impress so he is in a really good position, and what better time to fight me."

Then Walsh moves the ringposts, putting the pressure on his opponent.

"It is a massive fight for him, it is the biggest fight of life. I have been out of the ring for two and a half years - I am not even going to count that last fight (a third round stoppage of Reynaldo Cajina in May) as a fight, I have sparred a lot harder than that fight. His (Hughes') manager has done a good job to get him this fight at a time when you'd look at me and think two years ago it wouldn't have been a good time. This time he can draw confidence from all these factors."

Will he see Walsh's long absence from a big fight a weakness?

Maxi Hughes, right, in action against Martbn J Ward Picture: PAMaxi Hughes, right, in action against Martbn J Ward Picture: PA

"He will do, and his team will be telling that - 'he won't be sharp, he might not fancy it now'. They'll be giving him all the confidence in the world."

And the Walsh response?

"I think I have answered it over the last two years by being in the gym every day, by not leaving the gym, by sparring, by doing all the camps with (twin) Ryan for all his fights and by carrying on boxing. I didn't have to carry on boxing but it's something I love, it's my passion, it's my life, and I am going to continue to do it as long as I am good enough to, to fight at the top level and I more than believe I am.

"I have to prove that now. I have to beat Maxi and to beat him well, and move on."

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