| 11.4°C Dublin

Walsh is gunning for top

With age on his side, Dean can make his mark as a pro

Close

Dean Walsh

Dean Walsh

SPORTSFILE

Dean Walsh

The crowd in the National Stadium rose to applaud one of their own.

It was March 2014 and the IABA was bestowing a Lifetime Services to Boxing Award on Liam Walsh.

We were privileged to see three generations of an Irish boxing dynasty together.

Under normal circumstances, Liam would have been working the corner for his grandson Dean who was contesting the Elite 64kg final that night.

Sadly Liam's health was failing so his son Billy, Ireland head coach, took over the corner duties for his nephew's big fight.

Dean won a unanimous decision against Michael Nevin, who'd beaten Ray Moylette in the semi-final.

The victory marked the start of a glorious run for Walsh who retained his title in 2015 and 2016 with split decision wins over Moylette.

Along the way Walsh added a European Championship bronze medal to his trophy haul.

But just when Dean seemed to be getting into his stride, he began making headlines for the wrong reasons.

Following a controversial split decision loss in an Olympic qualifier tournament in Turkey in May 2016, Walsh found himself being disciplined and fined for misbehaviour by the IABA who sent him home early.

While the charges was referred to as "minor issues" by an official, the IABA stated: "No one is allowed to bring the association into disrepute."

The turmoil surrounding the IABA following the departure of the head coach coupled with failing to make the Olympic squad for Rio, despite one judge having him winning 30-27, had a detrimental effect on Walsh's commitment and resolve.

His star faded over the last couple of years.

But there could be no denying his talent.

Now Dean Walsh has a new goal, fresh ambitions and a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

Walsh is the latest Irish amateur star to join the pro ranks.

Although he has yet to secure a professional licence, Walsh has signed with Boxing Ireland Promotions, and Leonard Gunning, who's kept a close watch on his career, is optimistic about his future.

"He's a great signing," he enthuses. "He has pedigree. He's 26 so he's young and has loads of time to develop. The sky's the limit for Dean."

Gunning, promoter of the successful Celtic Clash series of shows, was successful in creating a pathway to a national title and high-profile fights for former amateur star Eric Donovan.

He believes Walsh has what it takes to go all the way.

"He knows how tough this game is," he says. "That's an important factor. He has serious punching power and great movement in the ring. He's very experienced, with lots of technique."

Walsh believes the time is right to make the switch.

He insists he can adapt from his pacey amateur style and is looking forward to building the stamina that'll see him fighting eight rounds.

"I'm aware that it's a tough grind at the start," he says. "But I'm prepared for that. I just want to get the training and get a taste of what pro boxing is all about. I just know that my talent and my will to box and to become a world champion is there."

Gunning strikes a realistic note when he says: "Dean probably won't get to fight in front of a home crowd in his first year. And the first year will be about discovering his best weight and generally getting used to the pro game.

"The response we've had since we announced we'd signed him proves how popular Dean is with fight fans," he adds.