‘I reckon Liam thought he was fighting Muhammad Ali when he was sparring with me’ - Michael Walsh on brotherly ‘love’
- Credit: Mark Hewlett
Make it a night to remember, they tell boxers ... Michael Walsh is determined to do just that, as head of sport Chris Lakey reports
Michael Walsh says he has been overwhelmed by the response to his return to the boxing ring later this month.
The 35-year-old from Cromer is back after a four-year absence, defending a 100pc KO record from 11 fights - and with a back story that will see thousands of pounds raised for two hospital charities.
Walsh's return is a double whammy - a serious boxing match-up as well as a night that will raise money for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
So far, the boxing world has done what the boxing world does: look after its own. And while Walsh isn't keen to put a figure on it yet, the £10,000 barrier could well be smashed.
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When Walsh steps into the ring on December 16 at the Holiday Inn North in Norwich, his purse will already be in the charity pot - but it will be as far from a charitable event as you can find: weeks and weeks of hard graft have gone into the boxing side when charity will not be forthcoming from either Walsh or the man who stands opposite him in the ring that night. This is for the record, for real. It is Walsh's business and the business of the Walsh boxing family. Which is why his younger brothers, twins Ryan and Liam, have refused to short change him in some brutal sparring sessions at the ProBox Gym in Norwich. Two black eyes this week are witness to that.
"They have taken liberties to be fair - I reckon Liam thought he was fighting Muhammad Ali when he was sparring with me," said Michael with a smile. "People might think brothers go easy on each other, but believe me we don't. We knock lumps out of each other. Liam hit me with everything he has got, Ryan too."
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Given the three brothers have been fighting each other since childhood, it's no surprise that they refuse to allow the older brother to step into the ring unless he is 100pc ready to do so.
"It would be wrong," admits Michael. "They know I am ready, they've made sure of that. You can't go into a boxing ring unless you are 100pc, and I am."
Everett has worked with all three brothers for years and was a huge motivational mover in Michael returning to the squared circle - and he knows Michael is as fit and ready as the day he started, back in 2008 after a successful career in the amateurs.
That night he stopped Delroy Spencer in the third of four scheduled rounds at the ExCel Arena in London's Docklands. A phenomenon had moved with hurricane force.
Walsh will readily admit that he went off the rails a little after his last fight, in April 2015 when he stopped Ignac Kassai in the first round at York Hall. Boxing, though, gives him a direction in his life once again, but not in circumstances anyone would wish: son Liam, now two, was born with a serious illness and Michael kept vigil at Great Ormond Street Hospital. They were hard times for the Walsh family, but the punchbag and the rings at the ProBox help clear his mind of some of the worries.
And then the two stars of boxing and little Liam aligned: suddenly there were thousands of reasons for Michael to return to boxing.
"I want to pay them back for what they have done for my little boy," said Michael. "I have had fantastic help from Graham, and from Mervyn Turner (promoter) and I can't believe what people are willing to do. I have sold a lot of tickets, but so many people have pledged more than just the money for the tickets. It is really amazing and I am humbled by it."
Michael is chatting after another gruelling session with Everett. The beads of sweat are there but the face is a little more gaunt: it's getting close to fight night and that means fighting weight. But for Michael Walsh it is about being fit physically and mentally.
"I have got myself mentally strong for this, because I have had to be. I often doubt myself but I know I am fit and ready. It's been a while but I have always kept myself reasonably fit and in the last two years I have been on my best behaviour. So apart from all the doubts and worries, boxer's worries, all is good."
Everett knows the Walsh brothers as well as anyone and is happy with Michael's progress.
"Michael has been brilliant," he said. "He has done everything we asked of him and more. He has got to box, he has got to win, and that is the priority. This is not a gimmick, but it is also an opportunity for the people of boxing to use what we do, our skill-sets, to raise money for someone who is very dear to one of us, which means it is very dear to all of us.
"That is our goal - but first and foremost he must be a fighter, he must win - he has not come back to lose that unbeaten record."