Antia could be a target for Walsh should the Wexford man opt to put together a new backroom team in his Stateside role with USA Boxing, but the 52-year-old Georgian is determined to guide Team Ireland to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Antia, hailed by the likes of Paddy Barnes and Ken Egan as the brains behind Ireland’s technical ability to compete at world level, has claimed that he wants “harmony and transparency” in Irish boxing after the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) finally broke their silence on Walsh’s contract saga yesterday.
The boxing association issued an early-morning statement before senior officials spoke with media present at the National Stadium.
IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth later revealed the association will soon advertise internationally for a permanent head coach, while it has not yet been decided whether 52-year-old Antia will remain in the post in the lead-up to the Rio Olympic Games next year.
“We will be meeting very shortly now to discuss that timeframe,” explained Carruth. “There will be an application process… but in the meantime we will be giving our full support to Zaur Antia.”
Carruth dismissed rumours that his brother, Michael, the former Olympic champion, may be a long-term candidate, calling the suggestion “mischievous”, while insisting he has no fear of Antia joining Walsh taking up a coaching role with USA Boxing.
“I can’t think about going,” said Antia on the subject. “My intention is to get [Ireland] to be the No 1 nation in the world. If I was to think about America or something else, that never happens. I want to spend 100% of my energy on one thing.”
The IABA’s long-awaited statement on Walsh’s departure was hard hitting and nearly 1,500 words as they finally emerged with a robust defence after days of silence.
On their dealings with Walsh, the association insist they were under the impression that a new deal had been struck with Walsh in September, brokered by Minister for Sport Michael Ring, to retain the 52-year-old Wexford native as head coach of the HPU.
Carruth dismissed the fact that the August proposal Walsh is believed to have agreed to was never ratified by the IABA, claiming a meeting was held with Minister Ring and the Sports Council on September 11 in Athlone, while a September 14 meeting was held with Walsh at the Irish Management Institute in Sandyford.
“They’re the important meetings because that’s where the deal was brokered by the minister,” said Carruth. “Why would you go back past that agreement and start talking about August 22?” Walsh this week insisted that a ‘gagging clause’ which would force him to seek permission from IABA chief Carruth to speak to the media was one of a number of clauses he could not agree to in the ‘September deal’. Carruth revealed that the clause was already a part of Walsh’s existing contract, but he claimed the IABA had never before felt the need to impose it and did not foresee a need to do so in the future. “It’s just an assurance level for the company,” said Carruth of the clause.
When questioned about the points of contention Walsh is believed to have raised during negotiations, Carruth said: “The vast majority of our discussions in and around Billy’s contract was to do with remuneration.”
Carruth also hit out at Sport Ireland/Irish Sports Council after threats to cut IABA funding in the wake of the saga.
IABA officials and Sport Ireland chiefs are expected to appear in front of an Oireachtas committee meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
Sport Ireland have questioned the IABA’s statement, claiming: ‘It remains unclear what transpired in the weeks before Billy Walsh’s resignation.’