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Chris Lakey: Ryan Walsh ... doing things his way (and it works)

PUBLISHED: 10:38 08 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:38 08 June 2019

Beginning of an era - Ryan Walsh celebrates defeating Samir Mouneimne with brothers Michael, left, and Liam Picture:  PA

Beginning of an era - Ryan Walsh celebrates defeating Samir Mouneimne with brothers Michael, left, and Liam Picture: PA

PA Wire

It was, said Ryan Walsh, a relaxing day down at the gym. The Cromer boxer was due to spar on Friday, but 24 hours earlier he was just ticking over.

Ryan Walsh - doing things his way Picture: Chris LakeyRyan Walsh - doing things his way Picture: Chris Lakey

Do too much and he perhaps risked picking up, unnecessarily, a niggling little injury so best just to stay in mint condition ahead of his fight in a couple of weeks time when he defends his British featherweight title against Lewis Paulin.

Ticking over involves a smashing cameo when a little boy called Hayden is invited into the ring to go through some exercises. Hayden's there with his dad, who is visiting trainer Graham Everett. It's a lovely side of sport that a little boy can be sharing a ring with a British boxing champion, and having fun. It helps that the boxer is Ryan Walsh. He's a thinker, not a spouter of inanities. He doesn't do trash talk. He does his job.

When he steps into the ring at the famed York Hall on June 28, he will be defending his title for the sixth time. He has already earned the Lonsdale belt outright for three defences and given it to older bother Michael. He'd love boxing's authorities to relax their rule and allow him another belt for three successful defences so he could give it to twin brother Liam - not that he is in the business of counting chickens before they have hatched. The irony isn't lost on Ryan, who smiles as he considers the idea of giving a better-than-domestic-level fighter a British belt.

The Lonsdale belt is a work of art and revered by Walsh.

"If I never win anything else in my boxing career I will be proud of my record as British champion," he says.

And so he should be: Walsh is currently Britain's longest reigning champion, having won the belt for the first time in September, 2015, when he beat Samir Mouneimne at Wembley Arena.

He may also be on his way to another record: if he beats Paulin he will equal the record of six featherweight title defences, set by Howard Winstone (between May 2, 1961 and December 7, 1966 and Ronnie Clayton (September 11, 1947 to June 1, 1954).

In all the current weight divisions, only two men have made more defences, both in the heavyweight ranks - the iconic Henry Cooper made eight defences between January 12, 1959 and November 7, 1967.

But standing head and shoulders above them all is Bombardier Billy Wells who, between April 24 1911 and February 27, 1919 made 14 title defences - the final one a defeat to Joe Beckett.

Wells does seem to have been different from the boxing norm: in 1923, he published the book, Physical energy: Showing how physical and mental energy may be developed by means of the practice of boxing - I have absolutely no doubt that Ryan Walsh would devour every word of that today.

He was also the third "gongman" - the figure who strikes the gong in the introduction to J Arthur Rank films.

When Walsh steps out at York Hall, there will be no gongs, but there may well be drums: the Farmy Army will be out in force and one of them not only has a drum, he has thoughts of playing it in the famous balconied hall.

Walsh loves the idea, probably because he doesn't follow boxing convention. And any sportsman who does it his or her own way is to be admired.

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Ban the booze

The FA spent, one assumes, a lot of time and money on the campaign to deter hooligans following the national side around the world.

Ahead of the Nations League finals they produced a minute-long video around the phrase, Don't be that idiot.

The sight of England fans chucking bottles and chairs at police in Portugal this week must have left the FA suits pulling their hair out.

Problem one: there is a big assumption that the idiots can read, that they can be bothered to concentrate on something for a minute and if they do, they will take notice.

Problem two: Alcohol blurs the words and I suspect that it is the root of all such evil.

In towns and cities our 'entertainment' areas chuck it down punters' throats and then wonder why there is violence. Restrict the idiots' access to alcohol and they will soon get bored and wander off.

It's just so annoying that at a time when there is hope on the pitch - Thursday night's result notwithstanding - the yobs come along and take us back to the dark ages.

Don't stop now

Football has become that brand of battery that just keeps going and going and going.

I have few complaints: the time between the Champions League final and the first of the Nations League semi-finals was as long as I want to go without a game after the season we have experienced.

Almost everything has gone right: England have become a better national team, Liverpool and Manchester City slugged it out for the Premier League, Norwich, of course, were majestic in their title-winning season in the Championship; Ipswich went down; King's Lynn went up. And the Champions League was magnificent - until it got to the final when the match stunk, because neither team had kicked a ball for three weeks.

So by my logic, football would be more exciting if it was an all-year-round sport. Don't stop: have competitive internationals in the summers. And for any club that says players will burned out - play your youngsters, you never know what might happen.

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