Silver hero Nevin says Walsh should be kept at all costs
OLYMPICS: FOR MUCH of London 2012 Seb Coe has spoken about legacy issues. From the beginning, stadiums and infrastructure were not to become empty monuments to the vanity of politicians and the sports targeted by the British teams were properly funded and sustained. Britain smashed its record haul. In boxing alone it has won more medals than any year since 1908. Now they ask how to improve on that for Rio.
In the Irish boxing team, those same questions arose with a weary silver medallist John Joe Nevin late on Saturday night. The thorny issue was whether Ireland can hold on to their coaches?
Nevin struggled with his weight before the Olympics began. Coming back from the professional scene with a broken jaw, the bantamweight (56kg) found his confidence had slumped. He constructed walls he couldn’t scale and he simply didn’t want to travel. “A month ago I was talking about not going (to London). Now I’m coming back with a silver medal,” he said.
Billy Walsh and his team convinced the 23-year-old that his proper stage was the Olympic Games, his physical conditioning perfect and his mind bullet-proof to doubt. Nevin delivered but now sees a clear and present danger, his anxiety centring on how head coach Billy Walsh is treated and how his inflated reputation fits into the thinking in Irish boxing.
“Billy and Zaur (Anti) are just out of this world. You can’t let them go, you have to keep them,” said Nevin. “If they want to make Ireland boxing get better, and it is growing, it’s them two people making it happen. They’re not getting the recognition and I’d love to see them getting the recognition.
“They’re the least-paid coaches of all sports in Ireland – well that’s ridiculous. I think they should be getting more than Trapattoni. Trapattoni’s a great manager but they are after bringing back four medals again. It’s unbelievable.”
Walsh has been approached by Australia and another country, Pete Taylor by three European countries. That’s no surprise. The question is what Irish boxing will do about it. Walsh, an employee, of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), runs all the High Performance boxing but has the lesser title – Head Coach. He runs the program but is not the High Performance Director. His salary is in the region of €30,000 less than what other High Performance Directors are being paid in sports such as sailing or swimming. Their salaries are in the region of €90,000 to €100,000.
Taylor, the part provider of five European, four world and one Olympic title, is modestly paid a coach’s salary by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) as part of the High Performance Program.
It’s a situation that is confusing and, from the point of view of Nevin and also Paddy Barnes, Walsh is not being paid what he is worth and has already been tempted to leave. “They’re the two coaches that have been with the High Performance from the start. Without them, there would be no High Performance, know what I mean,” said Barnes.
“Brian McKeown (Nevin’s club coach) has been a legend to me. He has trusted Billy with the work and we still trust Billy and Zaur – they are top-class coaches,” added Nevin. “Brian told me ‘stick to Billy and Zaur and you’ll go great. You can’t go wrong if you have them on your side’.”
When Declan Kidney returned to Ireland with a Grand Slam, rugby knew his worth had rocketed. Walsh’s achievement is probably better because it was sustained over two Olympic cycles. Boxing is part of the market now whether it likes it or not.