Walking with champions - will Ryan Walsh be the next for Graham Everett?
- Credit: Brittany Woodman
Graham Everett has walked among the best – champions at almost every level of boxing.
On Saturday, the Norwich-based trainer will walk behind Ryan Walsh as he steps into the ring to face Maxi Hughes with that most elusive of baubles, a world championship belt, on the line.
Everett has walked alongside Herbie Hide and Jon Thaxton, who went on to hold the belts aloft. He walked in with Liam Walsh, who bravely insisted he wanted to fight the very best but came across the boxing freak of nature that is Gervonta Davis and left empty-handed.
On Saturday, it’s Liam’s twin brother who takes centre stage, in opposition territory in Leeds. It’s a night that has been 20 years in the making, since the then young amateur from Cromer opted on a career in boxing and asked Everett to help him on the way. There is an unbroken and unwavering bond between the Walsh twins, and older brother Michael, a trust that earns nights like this.
“He came to our gym as an amateur teenager, he used to come up for sparring so he has been around me for a long, long time and I am proud to be his trainer,” said Everett. “We have got a great working relationship. My son Joe is part of the team now, which is just great for me, great to see... it’s progress and happiness for us all.”
All boxing gyms are good places to be ahead of a big fight: they exude confidence. They have to – without it, there’s little point in stepping into the ring in the harshest sport of all. But with Ryan Walsh and Graham Everett, there is a genuine excitement about what is ahead, about just rewards for hard work and dedication.
“That’s 100pc right,” says Everett. “Maxi Hughes took his opportunity last time and got an absolutely fantastic win, and make no mistake about it, Maxi is a great fighter, a good, good quality fighter.
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“But we all genuinely believe this is a fight that Ryan can and will win.”
Hughes is enjoying a renaissance: defeat to Liam Walsh in November 2019 could have been the start of a slippery slope, but he had a big win over Jono Carroll, won the WBC international lightweight title, the vacant British title and, last September, beat Jiovanni Straffon in Leeds to take the IBO world lightweight title that he defends for the first time on Saturday.
“Maxi took his opportunity,” says Everett. “He’s had some really good wins since losing to Liam and the last fight he had for the world title he absolutely out-boxed his opponent. He was superb, he boxed really well.”
Walsh and Hughes will be after each other’s throats on Saturday, but outside of the ring are by no means enemies.
“Outside of the ring we are all friends, but he is standing in the way of Ryan’s future, Ryan’s boxing future, all of our futures in the big time. This is a great opportunity and we have put everything into this, we have worked really, really hard and I genuinely believe Ryan will win this fight.
“He is in a good place, in superb mental and physical shape. He is good, he is ready to go.”
Liam’s win over Hughes is still relevant.
“We know how he can get beaten,” says Everett. “Obviously Liam and Ryan have talked about certain things. Liam knows him and he beat him comfortably. He knows Maxi’s strengths and weaknesses.
“The relevance is alive because you actually know what you are in against, you know about somebody’s power, you know about somebody’s speed and we have been working on certain things to get Ryan in the best possible shape and with the best possible tactics.”
Walsh has jumped two weights, from featherweight – a logical and natural move at 35 years old.
“I am very happy to see that and I am actually really pleased that he is at lightweight,” said Everett. “His older brother Michael has always said he should be a lightweight and I think he is right. Over the years I have seen Ryan torment bigger fighters, especially when he was an up-and-coming fighter. I won’t name them but European champions and good quality fighters coming to the gym were getting terrorised.
“He had no fear of anybody and the bigger the target, the bigger the man he was far more comfortable. He is hard to hit anyway and he is harder for a bigger man. He has that very good, elusive style and a bigger target in front of him – happy days.”