‘I don’t dream any more. Dreaming is for when you are asleep’ - Ryan Walsh
PUBLISHED: 17:17 22 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:17 22 February 2020
© 2013 Mark Hewlett
Ryan Walsh has 2020 vision – and sees a good year ahead of him.
The Cromer boxer has his eyes set on more than one prize after another win in the potentially lucrative Golden Contract series earned him a place in the featherweight final - but, more pertinently, edged him closer to a coveted world title shot.
Walsh is ranked second in the world by the World Boxing Association - that, plus his long-time stranglehold on the British featherweight belt as well as another impressive Golden Contract performance in beating the difficult Tyrone McCullagh at York Hall on Friday night, all add up to some forceful arguments from the Walsh camp for a shot at the big one.
"I am on a mission now," said Walsh. "I don't dream any more. Dreaming is for when you are asleep. 2020 is my mission, and I know what my goals. Winning the Golden Contract will lead me to my mission. It was a dream, now it is a mission."
For the opening few rounds against McCullagh, Walsh was chasing - he did more running than Mo Farah while his opponent was seemingly stuck in reverse gear.
It wasn't great viewing, but Walsh's experience kept the frustration at bay and in the fifth he closed the gap between the two and began to unsettle the man from Derry.
The sixth was the telling round: Walsh didn't just catch McCullagh, he landed, sending his previously unbeaten opponent to the canvas after a big right had teed him up for an attack.
Trying to finish it off was difficult given McCullagh's propensity to cut and run, but when he did venture out of his shell, he did it with fear. Walsh was in the driving seat and almost floored McCullagh again in the eighth when he sent him scuttling backwards on bendy legs only for the ropes to act like a shock absorber and keep him on his feet.
Walsh struck again in the ninth as McCullagh hit the deck again and the hunt was on: McCullagh was tiring, outclassed and only his default option of getting on his bike saved him.
There's a £7,50 bonus for finishing a fight early. Walsh has never been in this game for the money - you suspect if he had, he'd have left it long ago. But when the opportunity is there it is hard not to go for it - one or two swings might have done some serious damage had they not missed by inches. McCullagh was perhaps fortunate to hear the final bell - Walsh unfortunate not to have tucked a fat cheque into his pocket.
The scorecard reflected Walsh's dominance - 97-91, 97-91 and 96-92 sending him through to the final, likely in the summer, against Jazza Dickens, who beat Leigh Wood in the other semi-final.
Walsh, post-fight, was happy with the performance - although still wondering how he hadn't laid his hands on a bit more holiday money.
"I can only apologise to everyone," he said.
"I tried. Damn I tried. They were some of the biggest misses of my career trying to get that seven and a half grand. And I don't usually miss by that much, but that is how much I wanted it. It was in my grasp, but I thought he was awkward.
"You prepare for fighters like that but that is the first one in my career who has out and out just tried to nick it. He didn't land anything solid but he was awkward.
"If it had been an amateur fight over three rounds I probably lost, five rounds I probably lost, but you can't keep doing that.
"He went from awkward to insanely awkward. His survival instincts were good. It was difficult, he was tricky. I am really happy with that because I haven't had anyone come and try and steal it from me. How happy would everyone have been to see me knock him out?"
"But full respect to him. I tip my hat to him. I'm buzzing, I'm into the final."
Trainer Graham Everett admitted McCullagh's tactics had caused a few early concerns.
"Onwards and upwards and forward we go, even if it was a little bit worrying early on - but to be honest we all agreed in the corner there was no way he could keep that running up for 10 rounds," said Everett. "He had a damn good try at it, he was a really awkward customer, but we got the job done and that is all that counts. Dropping him twice did help us on the scorecards because apparently he was ahead early doors, although he wasn't really landing anything, he was running and flicking, running and flicking.
"It was worrying, but we knew we would catch him. It's not often we are behind - normally Ryan sets the pace, but all's well that ends well. We are in the final, which is what we set out to do, and we will be ready for the winner."