VIDEO: Boxer Michael Walsh vows to bring bantamweight British title back to Norfolk
Michael Walsh has vowed to bring a British title back to Norfolk – and fulfil a promise he made to his father just weeks before he died.
The 27-year-old – out of action for almost a year and a half after suffering a shoulder injury – has revealed how he almost fell out of love with the sport – but how he feared that leaving boxing behind could lead him into trouble.
Walsh has had a blistering career, with eight knockouts in his eight pro fights, but even before his last outing, against Ian Bailey, in October, 2010, he was experiencing problems with his shoulder, which now bears the scar of surgery last October to correct the issue.
But the dark days are now behind him and hopes that a fight at York Hall on April 5 will be the springboard to a bantamweight title shot – and the perfect tribute to his beloved father, John, who died just before Christmas of heart and lung problems.
'I was very close to my dad,' said the senior member of the boxing family that includes Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Liam and his twin Ryan, the English super-bantamweight title holder.
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'Out of all of us I'd be the one who went down the pub with him. Whenever I didn't have a fight I'd be with my dad. I promised him about three weeks before he died – I shook his hand when we were out for a drink and he said, 'promise me you will go for that British title'. I said, 'okay, I will do', but I think deep down I wasn't going to. I was a bit down about the whole sport, I wasn't fighting enough anyway when I was boxing. It was all getting me down, I thought I wasn't going to do it any more and I made that decision myself.
'But that night I shook his hand – two weeks later he died and I think I have a debt to pay and until I get there I won't be slowing down. I will live the right life and anyone in my way, anyone holding the British title, they are just keeping it warm for me. I'm coming for it.
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'In honour of my dad I'd fight for it tomorrow and I'd take some serious beating in honour of him. I don't know how I cannot win that now. I have promised him, I gave him my word – and I'm good for a bet.'
Walsh has spent recent weeks in Tenerife, under orders from his family.
'When my family needed me I went to Tenerife for six weeks because they asked me to go,' he said. 'I knew that was the only way, I knew I'd go off the rails and get into trouble.
'I needed to be with my family but I was going to go the other way. My composure isn't brilliant at times, but this time it will be different and I am coming back with a different attitude.
'I got into a lot of trouble when I was a kid – I got sent to a young offenders when I was 17 but only because I was breaking conditions – I was found not guilty. Twice I got sent away, but I was always capable of getting into trouble, falling out with somebody in the street and end up brawling on the floor. I can't say I haven't done that. When my dad died I was looking for it everywhere – if somebody beeped the horn in the car I was ready to jump in and go berserk. My family said, 'do yourself a favour and go away to Tenerife'.'
Walsh is already 12 weeks into a training camp and is now working under the tutelage of trainer Graham Everett, at the KickStop Gym in Norwich.
'I will be better than I ever was, so that is a good thing to take out of it all,' he said. 'I am going to take it more seriously. I trained hard, but sometimes I played hard as well. I trained like a maniac for 12 weeks, but then I'd sit out of the gym for a month whereas my two brothers, they'd be back within a week.
'I'd pull my shoulder and use it as an excuse to stay out of the gym. But those days are over now. I am a man on a mission, I want a British title. I promised to my dad and thanks to him I am back to where I am now.'
• For tickets to Michael's fight call 07920 114698 or 07796 206124.