The 52-year-old Wexford native yesterday opted to call it quits after drawn-out negotiations with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) failed to produce a new deal.
Walsh will depart Ireland on Thursday for a scouting mission at the USA Olympic trials, before he takes up a coaching position with the US women’s team with a view to eventually coaching their men’s team.
A clearly upset and emotional Walsh last night said: “I’m not very overjoyed at the moment, it was very sad all day and very emotional all day, because you’re leaving behind a huge part of your life.
He added: “Very soon, I hope that someone comes in and does a better job, because Irish boxing is my passion and if it goes to a higher level I’ll be absolutely thrilled.”
However, Walsh admitted he may approach former colleagues, such as Zaur Antia, about future openings in the US.
“At the moment, no, because it’s only for the women’s team, but two nights ago they rang me and said they want me to take over the men’s, so if that happens, I might need to bring my own team with me,” said Walsh. “We’ve grown this programme together, myself and Zaur, so it might be a possibility if it comes round.”
Walsh’s departure as head coach of the IABA’s high performance unit and senior team will be keenly felt, but he is right to do what is best for himself, according to Paddy Barnes, who won two Olympic medals under the Wexford man’s guidance. Barnes revealed that he had received a text from Walsh early in the morning prior to the official announcement of his resignation.
“I think it’s obviously a big loss to Irish boxing” said Barnes yesterday. “Myself and Billy have been on the team together for years, so it will be a loss to me, personally, because we’ve had a working relationship for so long, so it’ll take a while for someone else to come in and fill that void.”
Walsh laid the blame for his departure firmly at the door of the IABA.
“In August, a fair proposal was developed under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council that was acceptable and fair, but then not subsequently ratified by IABA,” Walsh’s statement read.
“I was hopeful in recent weeks that a final proposal arising out of an approach in late September by the IABA would lead to a successful conclusion, but unfortunately it didn’t.
“Regrettably the IABA have not made it possible for me to continue on in the role as Head Coach of the High Performance Unit and senior team.” Describing it as “the end of an era”, Barnes believes his former mentor, who departs for Colorado Springs on Thursday, will bring about a considerable improvement to the US women’s boxing programme, just as he did in Ireland.
On Walsh’s departure, Barnes said: “I’m not surprised or shocked, I just feel nothing — I’m not cold or anything. If someone wants to move somewhere for more money or a better life, you have to applaud them and say ‘fair play for taking the step’.”