Norfolk’s finest boxers produce the goods at Homecoming
Michael Walsh doesn't renege on his promises. Explosive entertainment he guaranteed – and that's exactly what he delivered in sensational style as boxing returned to Norwich on Saturday night.
The 27-year-old had seen stablemates Scott Moises and Nathan Dale fly the city flag high and proud, and then was at ringside to see brother Ryan's devastating first-round victory courtesy of three short, sharp punches that put his opponent on the canvas each time.
Michael then made his way back to the changing rooms before re-emerging for his International Masters super-featherweight title fight against Georgian opponent George Gachechiladze, from Georgia.
With the word 'Dad' on the front of his belt it was clear that Walsh was on a mission that would be heavily influenced by his emotions as he sought to provide a fitting tribute to his father, John, who died just before Christmas. But within 10 seconds, Walsh was on his knees, floored by a punch flush on the chin.
What followed was extraordinary, as Walsh found his feet, cleared his head and then began to unleash punches weighted with anguish and frustration.
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Walsh is a showman – at one stage he dropped his hands, dared and then allowed Gochechiladze to take two free shots at his head. It was either brave or foolish. But Walsh never flinched. Instead he fought – not boxed – until Gochechiladze was blown away by the hurricane. When he went to the canvas the first time, the end was imminent. The final punch, almost on the bell, floored him again – and this time he didn't make the count.
Almost 1,000 people were on their feet – in shock and awe. If ever anyone wanted to know why boxing should be a regular feature of the Norwich sporting calendar, this was it.
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'I think I walked in there with too much emotion,' admitted Walsh later as he tried to piece together the events of a stunning three minutes.
'I tried to fight if off all day because boxing is a sport in which you can't fight your emotions, but unfortunately it's the one thing that fires me up.
'I probably took my eyes off the prize for a minute, but I know this much – unless he had knocked me unconscious I am getting up.
'All I heard was this big voice, my dad saying, 'he can't beat you' – he used to think I was the best fighter on the planet.'
Brother Ryan did it totally differently – he stalked Mikheil Gogebashvili before planting a right hand to the temple which had the Georgian down. Two more missiles followed and after two minutes and 37 seconds of the opening round, his job was done.
'The difference between me and Michael is I was very relaxed,' said Ryan.
'I enjoyed the ring walk – I said I wanted it to last longer than the fight and I think it did. It was a special night for us all. That was the homecoming of all homecomings.'
Lightweight Moises showed excellent skills and was a popular points winner (40-36) over the difficult journeyman Kristian Laight, while Nathan Dale stepped up in class, but came through six rounds with a 59-55 decision over Mark McKray, of Tottenham.
But there was disappointment for Lowestoft cruiserweight Paul Davis, who was stopped in the first round by Elvis Dube and may now have to answer a big question about his boxing career.