Boxing coach Billy Walsh, who continued his Olympic medal success in Rio with the US boxing team, has said the IABA could have done more to keep him
Mr Walsh returned to Ireland on Wednesday, having spent one month in Rio de Janeiro, where the American boxing team enjoyed its greatest success in 18 years, winning one gold, one silver and one bronze medal through the successes of Claressa Shields, Shakur Stevenson, and Nico Hernandez.
Mr Walsh, from Wolfe Tone Villas in Wexford town, said the US boxing team was hoping to win two medals, one in the women’s and one in men’s boxing. “It’s been fantastic. To get two men’s and one women’s medals exceeded our expectations.
“A couple of the guys were beaten by gold medalists and only lost on split decisions. This is a team of kids so they all have to be commended.
“I was worried about how they were going to cope with the magnitude of fighting in an Olympics but they were fantastic.”
Mr Walsh is the women’s boxing coach, but is expected to take over as men’s boxing team head coach in the next year.
He said the target for Irish boxing was to go from fifth in the world at the London Olympics to first at Rio, but the team ended up with no medals. “Unfortunately that [target] became derailed early on in the tournament. All of them were unlucky, some more than others.
“I was gutted for Michael Conlon. It was disgraceful what happened to him. Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder could have seen that he won that fight.
“Nobody was safe with those judges. I’ve never seen such stupidity in judging, so any champion could have been taken out. That worried me and I had to get that through to the team; to take the decision away from the judges.”
Responding to an accusation by Katie Taylor’s father Pete that the Irish boxing team became a mess after he left and that this was his fault as well as the IABA’s, Mr Walsh said: “That’s his opinion. It was my decision to move on but at the end of the day, the IABA could have made that not happen.
“The team were down one man who was leading the programme so it was always going to be difficult to fill the holes in a 10-month period.”
Mr Walsh remains optimistic for Irish boxing, saying the boxers “ gave it 100%” and were “unlucky” in Rio, as there is a strong pool of talent in the country.
“The success of this generation of boxers has brought more kids into the game and more will come through the pipeline to the top levels.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved