Wonderful Liam Walsh has mark of Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton in Manchester

Liam Walsh eased to victory against Kevin Hooper in Manchester. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire Liam Walsh eased to victory against Kevin Hooper in Manchester. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Monday, July 28, 2014
6:30 AM

It was fitting for Liam Walsh that he should use the power of his body punch in Ricky Hatton’s back yard to bring an end to his 10-month absence from the ring in such devastating fashion.

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The Cromer fighter had originally been down as one of the Manchester fight night’s big attractions on Saturday, but when his British super-featherweight title fight against Gary Sykes went down the pan, so did his place in the running order.

In the end, Walsh’s fight against Grimsby’s Kevin Hooper – made at lightweight – was on after the main attraction, a status afforded to Billy Joe Saunders following the slow dismantling of the Tyson Fury-Dereck Chisora clash that never was. Shame that promoter Frank Warren wasn’t there to see it, that his Box Nation TV cameras were switched off and that Hatton himself had long since left ringside.

Walsh’s body punches were something of which the master himself would have been proud. Fortunately, the Farmy Army of Walsh fans – who made easily the loudest noise of the night in the by then hollow shell at the Phones 4U Arena – gave it an atmosphere all of its own.

Walsh and Hooper have been up close and personal in sparring before, but after a round when they sized each other up, there was only one man in it. Walsh had been urged by brothers Ryan and Michael to use his body punch more freely – and Liam had clearly taken notice. He softened Hooper with a couple in the second when he moved well, making every punch count. In the third, Hooper’s body took more punishment and he had to beat a standing count right in front of his own corner as Walsh went to do some damage. He round ended with a fierce attack by Walsh, and the smile on Hooper’s face was one of bravado, not confidence.

The end came late in the fourth round, which had been heavily one-sided: a stunning left to the side of the body left Hooper writhing on the canvas and it was a good two minutes before he was up on his feet, put down and stopped for the first time in his career.

For the army of fans from north Norfolk – plus another big contingent from the Walsh family’s Rochdale roots – it was time to celebrate victory number 16 on Liam Walsh’s perfect record. Next up is likely to be that aborted British title fight with Sykes.

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