Ryan Walsh waved an emotional goodbye to Norwich fights nights after shaking off some, if not all, of the ring rust accumulated over the past year and a half.

The North Norfolk fighter was a 40:36 winner over the tough Russian Rustem Fatkhullin, step one on a planned return to the top of the domestic tree, this time with the British lightweight title in his sights – a journey which will now involve campaigning on away shows.

But the 37-year-old admitted Sunday’s performance at the Holiday Inn Norwich North wasn’t up to the standard the long-time former holder of the featherweight belt expects of himself.

“I'm happy - I feel like it was very rusty,” said Walsh, who had to adapt to a late change which meant the fight was over four rounds rather than six.

“It wasn't vintage me at all and it took me four rounds to jab, which I'm a bit disappointed with, but we'll see when I watch it back up. I'll probably be frustrated.”

The venue is a familiar one to Walsh, albeit one that needs a delve into the memory bank.

“I had my third amateur fight room, and we're talking over 20 years ago, so I’d have been 14 or 15," he said. “I was in that room fighting the same boy. I fought the same boy three times on the trot.”

Walsh - whose last fight was an unsuccessful IBO world lightweight title clash with Maxi Hughes in March 2022 - topped a bill that also saw wins for Great Yarmouth’s Mikie Webber-Kane and Thetford’s Roni Dean

“It's been a while,” he said. “I've really enjoyed the ring walk, really enjoyed the whole thing, I got quite emotional if anything. I felt it was just nice to be back. It was nice to see all the faces - I recognised nearly everybody in the room, which is nice, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the fights before. I thought both Roni’s and Mikie’s crowds were brilliant, really, really good, and they should be proud of the support they have got, they’re good young pros coming through.”

Trainer Graham Everett may want to see Walsh out again to complete the rust clearance.

“We have sparred, with good quality boys, but there's nothing like competition and you have to get rid of rust,” he said. “It wouldn’t hurt him to have another one of them. Through a clerical error, no fault of ours, the fight was cut to four, which is really disappointing for a championship fighter. In reality, Rustem is a welterweight, he's a bigger fighter, he fights bigger guys all the time, he is very, very, very tough, with a huge amateur pedigree and he's over here boxing week in, week out, doesn't blink. He is just really tough. It was basically all about getting Ryan active again.”

Eastern Daily Press: Mikie Webber-Kane with trainer Tony NormanMikie Webber-Kane with trainer Tony Norman (Image: Chris Lakey)

Webber-Kane’s four-round win (40:36) over Santiago Garces was a ‘holding fight’ ahead of his Southern Area super-featherweight clash against Chatham's Robert Caswell, which has been rearranged for February 24 after being postponed in October.

“He (Garces) is a really tough boy,” said Webber-Kane, who took his record to 11 wins in a row.

“He's normally boxing a little bit heavier, so it was hard, he was tough. I was hitting him with some really big shots in there and I felt I hurt him a few times, I was pushing him around a little bit. I felt like I was dominating the fight all the way through. But it's just another good four rounds, a good tune-up for the next fight.”

Dean - like Webber-Kane, backed by highly vocal fans – was on her third outing but her first local show. Her opponent, Sheffield's Sherie Barnes, soaked up a lot of punishment with an unorthodox style and was unable to prevent Dean from taking each of the four rounds.

“She a little bit awkward,” said Dean. “I saw a couple of videos of her and obviously you never know until the day, but I just stuck to my boxing and didn't get drawn into all the face pulling and stuff like that.

“I hit her with a couple of good shots and I thought, ‘it's going to be over in round one, I can get out of there really early’, but to be fair to her, she was tough and kept going and seemed to soak up the shots, so fair play to her.”