Cromer’s Walsh brothers dedicate success to ‘guardian angel’
- Credit: PA
Twins Liam and Ryan Walsh have vowed to become outright owners of their Lonsdsale belts – to ensure they can give them to the man they call their guardian angel.
Older brother Michael has made sacrifices since his teens for his younger siblings and they are insistent that they will pay him in the best way possible. Three title defences enables the champion to keep boxing's most prized possession and the brothers are two-thirds of the way there after victories on Saturday night at the Copper Box Arena.
Liam retained his British and Commonwealth super-featherweight crowns by beating Coventry's Troy James, while Ryan took his featherweight crown back to his Cromer home after beating Belfast's James Tennyson.
'He has looked over us all our lives,' said Liam, 29.
'He went to work when he was only 17 years old, he looked after us, he paid for our train travel to the gym three days a week, he got us all our boxing gear, got me my driving lessons, he bought me a car – we would not be anywhere near here if it hadn't been for Michael.
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'He said to me from a young age, 'Liam, promise me you will stay in the gym and train all your life and I will do everything I can to help and support you', and that is what he has done from day one.
'And he is still doing it now – he is non-stop, putting money out of his own pocket constantly, for sparring and things like that.'
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Ryan added: 'I think Michael is our guardian angel – he's always looked after us and this is one way in which we can show our appreciation.'
Michael's investment is paying dividends – the first twins to hold British titles at the same time therefore became the first to defend on the same bill.
Ryan put in arguably the best performance of his career to see off Tennyson. Ryan had already had Tennyson on the canvas in the second before a stunning fifth round. The Irishman hit the deck twice as Ryan took the wind out of his sails – ultimately the body shots did the trick.
Liam's task was somewhat different: James is short and stocky, but at times he lured the Norfolk man into a scrap he didn't want. James took a standing count in the third – he was caught by a Walsh jab but it looked more like a slip. Liam simply shrugged his shoulders – like everyone else, he knew the script.
As the rounds went on, the 32-year-old James began to struggle: class will always out – and it did, in some style. More and more sustained attacks weakened James, whose responses were borne of bravery.
The inevitable happened in the eighth – Liam was in full, high-explosive flow, James wasn't answering and his corner threw in the towel.
Liam said; 'Ryan was better than me tonight. He showed far more quality, there were spells of real class in there. Ryan was clinical and focused against a very good opponent.'
His brother begged to differ.
Ryan added: 'There is something about Liam where it is so much more entertaining – he walks towards his opponent with a smile and says, 'come on, then, let's do it'.'
Best display of Ryan's career, says trainer
Trainer Graham Everett believes the Farmy Army were treated to a career-best performance by Ryan Walsh as he retained his British featherweight title.
Walsh was up against an opponent one-and-a-half inches taller and with, clearly, a longer reach – but it was the Cromer man who was producing the best jabs, and sending in some stinging right hands to the side of the Belfast man's head.
'He stopped Darren Traynor in his first defence and he stopped Tennyson well – everything has come together – activity, the confidence of being a British champion, self-belief and will to win,' said Everett.
'He has always been a big puncher, I have always said that. To be fair I can't praise him enough – I thought he was absolutely brilliant. To me that is a career-best performance.'
It would be unfair to say Walsh had it all his own way: the Tennyson upper-cut was always a danger, but while he attempted it many times, it never attained its intended effect.
Twin Liam produced a classy finish in his first outing since last July, having undergone hand surgery.
'If I was being totally honest I think he got a little too involved, but he is frustrated he hasn't been in the ring for a long time,' added the Norwich trainer.
'Troy James is a really tough man – he went out like a proper warrior, but Liam is just a class above. That was his mandatory so he was there by rights. Once Liam settled down and boxed and made him miss he did look what he is – genuine world class.'
The big question now, is, what happens next – and that will be down to promoter Frank Warren.
'I am pretty sure Frank Warren would like to have Liam in some sort of world title situation, but we will have to see what is best for all concerned,' added Everett.
Whilst all the world stage talk centres around Liam, Ryan certainly has claims: he gave world champion Lee Selby a good fight two-and-a-half years ago – the Ryan Walsh of 2016 is a better, updated model and his claims are justified.
Walsh believes plenty of activity – and the confidence that being the British champion brings – have helped.
He said; 'I have fought three times in seven or eight months so it is no surprise I am going to improve. I was as relaxed as I have ever been all of life – my heartbeat was like it is now while his would have been going off the scale.'
As usual, the backing from Cromer was loud and proud.
Ryan said: 'I think they are the best fans in Britain. Words can't explain what their support means to us and we appreciate what each and every one of them does for us.'