'I hate it when you feel like nothing's happening, people are scratching their backsides and not even watching' - Liam Walsh
PUBLISHED: 09:25 10 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:25 10 November 2019
© 2013 Mark Hewlett
Liam Walsh is notoriously harsh when appraising his own boxing performance.
The Cromer boxer marked his unanimous points victory over Maxi Hughes a six out of 10. Trainer Graham Everett gave him a seven.
But if you consider this an average performance, think again.
Walsh has had one fight in two and a half years, and that a stoppage win over a journeyman who stepped in at the last minute back in May - a fight Walsh doesn't consider the real starting point of his comeback.
Saturday night against Maxi Hughes at York Hall - that was when it all ignited again. Walsh had warned that Hughes would be tough, that he was better than his record suggested. He was right - but once Walsh persuaded his opponent to come out of his shell and stand toe-to-toe - an invitation that went out in the sixth round - the man from Yorkshire couldn't work out the puzzle. Walsh just got better and better, and the only question was the margin of victory (97-93, 98-92, 96-94).
"It thought it was six out of 10. But I am always critical of myself and I always will be because I strive for perfection, and that was nowhere near perfection," said Walsh, whose victory earned him the vacant World Boxing Organisation European lightweight title.
"But you have got to take into consideration I have been out of the ring for two and a half years. I had a fight in Brentwood six months ago but for me that doesn't really count.
"But he (Hughes) is a tricky southpaw, an under-rated tricky southpaw, a better fighter than he had ever been given credit for, and he did a good job. Respect to Maxi. I wasn't really good enough, I have got to be much better than that obviously, but I will be - as we get bigger fights and better fights I will raise my game too."
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The usual cat and mouse exchanges gradually disappeared in the opening rounds, but it was the sixth, when Walsh looked up at Hughes' singing supporters with a big smile and then beckoned on their favourite, that things began to change. In return, Hughes caught Walsh with some attempted Hollywood punches, but the 33-year-old didn't flinch. Clearly the aggressor, Walsh ran out of time at the end of the eighth when a solid body punch clearly rocked Hughes. But by then the writing was on the wall: the Hughes game plan wasn't working, Walsh was clearly the better man, and victory was his, barring a catastrophe, well before the final punch was thrown.
"I was trying to make a fight of it," he said. "I hate it when you feel like nothing's happening, people are scratching their backsides and not even watching it.
"I want people bouncing off the roof and I want to make it entertaining. I gave some silly shots away doing that and I just took my eye off the ball a little bit, but I had it under control.
"To all the kids watching - it is not the way to fight! I was getting loads of stick (from his corner) because I am a lot better than that. I trained really hard and sparred really well and I didn't give any free shots. Now I am giving free shots to try and make a fight of it."
At 33, Walsh still has plenty in the tank - that was only his 24th pro fight, while Hughes, four years his junior, has had 26.
"I hope we can now get a good opponent," Walsh added. "I have now done 10 rounds, which I am really happy about and I am hoping we can push towards a big, big fight."
Trainer Everett added: "He looked very good. He wants to be in big fights, he wants to be in really food fights.
"Maxi did what we expected him to do - he survived and tried to nick it. He is very clever, he is very cagey. You can see he counter-punches really well and he throws clever little shots. He is a hard night's work for anyone and he is certainly a hard night's work to look good against.
"But to be fair I think Liam did a very good job. The only criticism is he got caught by a couple of stupid shots. He was trying to draw a fight out of Maxi but like I said to him in the corner, don't give him anything. I think he will raise his game more in bigger fights.
"He is back where he should be - that is the first of many titles. This gets him a world ranking, it gets him where we need him to be. Let's be fair about it - who wants to fight Liam Walsh? The best way you can make things happen is get yourself in a good position."