Billy Walsh aims to shield fighters from media
Every effort being made to ensure squad peaks when they hit the ring in Doha
Ireland head coach Billy Walsh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
His future remains uncertain, but Billy Walsh maintains that the focus should be on his seven-strong squad at the World Championships in Doha.
A busy opening night of action means that wish is likely to come true once competition gets underway this evening.
The saga surrounding Walsh’s status as head coach of Irish boxing’s high performance unit has been allowed to drag on for weeks and a rumoured approach from the US regarding a coaching role with their women’s team led to a flood of speculation that the Wexford native would be lost to Irish boxing. But for now he has more immediate concerns.
For all the success of the high performance unit, a world gold medal for a male Irish fighter is still the primary objective for Walsh and Co.
Jason Quigley’s 2013 middleweight silver marked the only occasion an Irish male boxer has reached a decider at the tournament, with John Joe Nevin having previously come closest when picking up bronze on two occasions.
Walsh has therefore decided to shield his fighters from the glare of the media in the days leading up to their opening bouts, while attempting to make sure that his own situation does not provide any unwelcome distractions.
“There’s no talk about it. The guys were very on edge when it all broke out, but I just reassured them that we were going to Doha, we’d give it our all and we’ll see where it goes,” explained the 52-year-old.
A number of boxes have been ticked in the build-up.
With the Worlds doubling up as an Olympic qualifier, every effort has been made to ensure all seven boxers peak when they hit the ring in the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena, although team captain Michael Conlan’s place in Rio is secured thanks to his success in the World Series of Boxing this year.
Conlan, along with light-heavyweight Joe Ward, has received a bye through the round, while three Irish boxers are in action this evening in what is likely to be a hectic opening session.
The draw was tough on Portlaoise middleweight Michael O’Reilly, who meets Ukraine’s Valeri Kharlamov tonight, while Wexford light-welterweight Dean Walsh (nephew of Billy) takes on Luis Dian Arcon of Venezuela, with Belfast light-flyweight Brendan Irvine in against Nico Hernandez of the US.