The life of Ryan – the Cromer boxer aiming to make history
- Credit: Archant
Ryan Walsh had his boxing head on – he's noticeably quieter than usual, there's not much banter about the weekend football. Polite as always, of course, but if you didn't know what was happening at Wembley tomorrow, you'd wonder if someone had spoken out of turn.
It's all part of what Walsh calls 'the only rubbish part of the job' – the rest of the time it's a labour of love.
Walsh has a scientific approach to boxing: it is no surprise that he expects his Wembley showdown with Hull's Samir Mouneimne – when he seeks to win the British featherweight title – to be a technical affair.
Like his hero, Mike Tyson, Walsh loves the history of the sport, the stories of old, the way the sport has changed and adapted over the years, and the way its best practitioners have gone about their business. He soaks it all up like a sponge, all the information, the nuance of fights, the styles, the reasons things happen.
Boxers sometimes have an undeserved reputation when it comes to their intellectual agility. Not Ryan Walsh, nor his brothers, twin Liam and older sibling Michael. Sharp as tacks they are. Ryan is a deep thinker.
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Right on cue, Liam, the current British super-featherweight champion, his right hand heavily bandaged after surgery a week ago, and Michael walk into the Kickstop Gym in Norwich where Ryan is having a 'light workout'. I look at the photographer and he looks back: the unspoken question is 'this is light?'
A few word are exchanged between rounds and Ryan is soon back to work. Trainer Graham Everett has made his own boxing sticks – they look like baseball bats – he has one in each hand and, sensibly, a heavily-cushioned protector around his waist. Ryan's hands are a whirl as he directs punches with unerring accuracy to the end of the sticks.
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The area he is hitting is, what, cheek size. Fittingly. The speed is more than impressive, but the accuracy is phenomenal. Ryan doesn't give the sticks a moment's peace. It is mesmerising stuff. Which is presumably the way he wants Mouneimne to look – mesmerised.
It's an interesting match-up for a number of reasons – the history that Ryan will make if he wins and the Walsh family then contains the only sets of twins to ever have held British title belts at the same time.
It is, he admits, an extra pressure, but one which he uses positively. Boxing families are closer than in other sports. Maybe it's a protective cloth because of the dangers involved. Liam and Michael will both be in Ryan's corner tomorrow, but there is a nice moment when, asked what making history would mean, Ryan points out that it is not just the two of them involved. Michael is just as central.
Then there is the fight itself, the styles. Ryan knows Mouneimne will be tough: you don't get this far without that. He is awkward.
But Ryan Walsh has been in with all sorts in his career and in the build-up to his date at Wembley.
The only blemish on Walsh's record was his defeat to Lee Selby almost two years ago. He learned a lot that night at the O2. The plaudits he gained in defeat were, you felt, accepted grudgingly. Because he lost.
Does he still think about it?
'There is not a single day of my life goes by without me thinking about that night,' he says quietly.
There follows a silence. It's a little eerie. Ryan Walsh's 'fight head' is clearly on.
It's time to go and let him prepare for what could be the greatest night of his life.