Former Irish head coach Billy Walsh has dedicated his historic International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Coach of the Year award to his late father.
Now head coach with the USA, Walsh also hailed the contributions of Eddie Byrne and former Irish chief seconds Nicholas Cruz to his career.
The Wexford native, who steered the USA to one gold, one silver and one bronze at Rio 2016, is the first Irishman and the first American coach to receive the prestigious award.
The USA finished joint fifth in the medals table in Rio alongside Great Britain.
Walsh, along with current Irish head coach Zaur Antia and Pete Taylor, helped guide Ireland to one gold, one silver and two bronze at London 2012 and to joint 5th spot in the medals table with Kazakhstan.
The ex-Irish Olympian was presented with his award in Montreux, Switzerland on Tuesday night at an AIBA 70th birthday bash attended by National Federations.
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association were represented by Pat Ryan, (president), Joe Hernon, (vice-president), and Fergal Carruth, (CEO), in Montreux.
Walsh admitted the honour was a humbling experience and insists he’s a product of the Irish system whose journey began as a raw seven-year-old. “I’m humbled to be recognised by AIBA as their top coach for 2016. It’s a reflection on the hard work being done by Team USA in our quest to dine at the top table with the best nations in AIBA boxing.
“My journey began as a seven-year-old. The people who influenced my career are my coach Eddie Byrne who took me from a raw seven-year-old to an Olympian and Nicolas Cruz who I worked with as (Irish) captain for five years.
“I dedicate my award to my dad Liam who taught me about life, about working hard and about never giving in and about not taking yourself too seriously and enjoying life to the full. I’m a very proud Irishman that has come up through the Irish system.”
Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko, India’s Mary Kom, Cuba’s Felix Savon and France’s Brahim Asloum were inducted as AIBA Legends in Montreux and Rome 1960 Olympic champion Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was fondly remembered.
Kom and Katie Taylor have both won five AIBA World Elite titles, but Taylor has also claimed Olympic gold which proved to be beyond Kom, who won 51kg bronze at London 2012 where Taylor topped the 60kg podium.
“I am honoured to be one of the first recipients of the AIBA Legends award,” said Klitschko, the 1996 Olympic champion who meets 2012 Olympic champion Anthony Joshua in a WBA/IBF title fight in London in April.
Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov and Britain’s two-time Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams took home the male and female boxer of the year awards. Dusmatov was edged out for the one Rio 2016 qualification spot by Ireland’s Paddy Barnes in the World Series of Boxing, but qualified through another route and won Olympic light-fly gold.
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