Billy Walsh: 'In the US you're working with a group of people that really want you to succeed'

The AIBA coach of the year spoke to Off The Ball on Thursday night

BY Cian Roche 21:22 Thursday 22 December 2016, 21:22 22 Dec 2016

Image: Frank Franklin II AP/Press Association Images

Billy Walsh has enjoyed his time since moving to the United States.

In his new position within the US boxing set-up, Walsh helped guide the country to a first Men's boxing medal since 2008 when Nico Hernandez secured bronze in Rio. This was then followed by a gold medal for Claressa Shields and a silver for Shakur Stevenson.

His achievements have been well stated and recognised on the international stage, after being awarded coach of the year by the Amateur International Boxing Association AIBA.

Speaking on Thursday night's Off The Ball, he spoke about his new position a year on and how amateur boxing has grown in the States.

"I think the sport in America maybe wasn't being recognised enough and the priorities over there maybe weren't what they should have been," he said. "Professional boxing is the big winner over there, that took a lot of their top athletes.

"To give them hope then to focus on an Olympic Games, on a different style of boxing and to bring that to them when they were all thinking about professional boxing has made a difference.

"We've put a bit of structure and brought a bit of discipline around what was happening with the team and brought them together.

"We brought them together like they do in Britain and in Ireland and that helped changed the process. The process was the problem because the talent was always there. Giving them the process to be Olympic athletes in that short space of time, I'm surprised we had the results that we had.

"The hard part now is trying to embed it and getting the system going forward for the next four years. To get sustainability over the coming decades is the biggest challenge for me at the moment."

Walsh admits while it is nice to win the accolade of coach of the year but insisted that it comes as a result of the people who helped him along the way: "If you forget where you came from, then you're lost.

"At the end of the day I think it's a reflection on everyone that works with you, everyone around you and everyone who has worked with you down through the years. I'd like to think it's an award to recognise all those people."

Billy Walsh and trainer Kay Charles talks to boxer Albert Shone Conwell, as Conwell fights India's Vikas Krishan during a men's middleweight 75kg boxing match at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Image: Frank Franklin II AP/Press Association Images

He discussed the Olympics this year not only from an American viewpoint but for the Irish as well. Olympic champion Katie Taylor and world champion Michael Conlan were both beaten in controversial circumstances, but Walsh was quick to point to poor decisions rather than to suspect foul play.

"At the end of the day, everyone has the freedom of speech and this sport is no different. It got to the stage that a blind man could see that the decisions weren't right. 

"I'm not so much a believer about the corruption that went on, I'm more a believer that it went down to poor judging. If the corruption side of it did go on then maybe I'm a bit too innocent in my thoughts.

"I didn't feel there was that much because I know some of the referees and judges that were there. They've been upskilled and the best guys who have been on the circuit for the last couple of years. I've seen them referee and I just think there were some poor decisions in a lot of the cases, but it needs to be addressed." 

He added: "At the end of the day, boxing is about you hitting me more than I hit you. It's simple enough to equate that and look at it to say 'well this guy won because he was the better boxer and he hit this guy'. It's not that difficult... We need to get these things right because people are going to lose faith in it."

His high profile fall-out with the IABA bordered on scandal at the time that it broke in 2015, but Walsh insists that all parties involved have now moved past the disagreement.

"I have no real regrets. Maybe I should have left earlier. Other than that, it's been really good. It's a great working environment out there. Anything I've asked for so far, they've turned up trumps with.

"We've all moved on, we're in a better place and you're working with a group of people that really want you to succeed. They'll do everything they can - within reason - when you show them a pathway and something that will get us excellence, they'll back you 100%.

"That's the nature of Americans. They're winners, they want to be number one."

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