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Exclusive: Jason Quigley And Other Irish Boxers Give Their Take On The Billy Walsh Situation

Exclusive: Jason Quigley And Other Irish Boxers Give Their Take On The Billy Walsh Situation
By Gavan Casey

Yesterday we spoke with European conqueror and Rio 2016 medal hopeful Michael Conlan to get his take on the news that his head coach, Billy Walsh, is set to leave Irish boxing and take up a position running the womens' setup for the USA.

With the fallout continuing from the story - originally broken by Kevin Byrne in the Irish Sun - we caught up with some of the leading names in Irish boxing, some of whom former or current students of Walsh in the Ireland setup, to assess the potential loss Walsh would be to a sport which has produced 16 of Ireland's 28 Olympic medals, a year out from next summer's Olympics.

Donegal's Golden Boy Jason Quigley won European gold and World silver under Wexford's innovative boxing mastermind, and the Ballybofey-turned-LA native recalled how much he enjoyed travelling the world with Walsh:

Billy was a massive influence on my career. From the moment I stepped into the national senior team and even before that, Billy guided me towards a very succesful international career.

I will be forever thankful of the time and experience he gave me, not to forget all the good laughs and craic we had along the way!

said the man LA's Mexican contingent have christened El Animal. He continued:

No matter what part of the world we were in or if it was a 5 star or 1 star, the team and the coaches all had a great relationship and made the best out of it all.

I'll never forget the peck on the cheek he used to gove me before every fight.

He laughs.

I wish him all the best in his new venture in the States.

Billy Walsh's own nephew and current charge Dean Walsh - who returned to a hero's welcome from Bulgaria a fortnight ago with a European bronze medal to his name - revealed that he remained in the dark about what the future held for his uncle, ensuring us that "nothing is confirmed yet."

It was a surprise when I heard the news [yesterday] morning.

It's a huge loss for myself and all of Irish boxing. He was there since I was a kid with my grandfather and father, and it was great having my uncle in the corner as I won my first major medal,

Walsh told Balls.

But if it's true he is going, it's a big loss in Irish boxing. Him and Zaur [Antia] are magic together. At the same time, I respect my uncle's decision and will stick by him whatever he decides to do. Family is family.

In a bout of incredibly hard-hitting journalism, I had a brief chat with Celtic Warrior Gym head honcho Paschal Collins - 2014 Irish trainer of the year - who many fans of the sport in Ireland would view as a possible candidate to replace Walsh, particularly were Zaur Antia to accompany him on his journey to the US.

Cork middleweight knockout artist Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan reflected the thoughts of his trainer, Collins, and assured that - with or without Walsh - Ireland's current amateur crop is talented enough to achieve massive things in Rio next year.

I know Billy, he's a very good coach and I think it's bad timing with Rio not too far away. And obviously the boxers are very fimilar with Billy, but Zaur is equally as good and I think he could take over.

But if he didn't want to, there are plenty of top class trainers out there in Ireland - it's our strongest sport and it's not all down to Billy,

said O'Sullivan, now ranked #10 by the WBA and back in action in Boston this October.

He gives the finishing touches but the boxers that come to him have been excellently trained prior to joining the High Performance team. I'm confident that there are many Irish coaches out there that would be capable and happy to lead Team Ireland to Rio and be sucessful if Zaur didn't fancy taking over.

Spike however, who himself has trained several county, Munster and National champions that have gone on to box for Ireland, does feel that - should Walsh ultimately depart - he might well look to take the cream of his coaching staff with him.

It would be worse, definitely if he takes Zaur. There would be a complete change then, obviously, to what the fighters are used to.

I reckon he'll do his best to take Zaur with him as well- they obviously work well together, and it would be a blow for Rio for sure.

But the fighters we have are terrific and will be very hard to beat regardless of who's in their corner.

This evening, the Irish Sports Council released a statement heavily criticising the IABA for how they have dealt with the issue thus far.

Since February, the ISC has been aware that Billy had received an offer internationally. From the outset, the ISC, made it clear that it wanted to retain Billy Walsh and was available to provide whatever support was required.

That said the ISC however recognises that it is a matter for the IABA to resolve.

Following a series of talks, the ISC presented a proposal which addressed the needs and concerns of all parties. The proposal was to be brought to the board of the IABA on 25 August.

On the 25 August the ISC was informed that the proposal would not be presented to the board and that a sub-committee was suggesting a new version that was substantially different to the original proposal.

In effect this unilateral action ended the ISC's initiative. It is not aware of any progress over the past few days. It has advised the IABA to act quickly and to revert to the original proposal if the situation is to be resolved.

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