Crafty Cromer featherweight Ryan Walsh carved his name into the ring annuls last September when he joined super-feather brother Liam as the first set of twins to simultaneously hold British titles.
And now the slippery 29 year old switcher – already ranked 13th by the WBO – intends replicating Liam as a bonafide world contender by shining in his maiden defence against Aberdeen’s unbeaten Darren ‘Trayn Wreck’ Traynor at The York Hall, east London on 22nd January.
Last Monday, boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with him at his training base in Tenerife.
Given you’d waited so long for your shot, what were your thoughts at the final bell of your close, cagey vacant title fight with Samir Mouneimne?
I’m an honest man. I knew I’d lost when I fought for the title before against Lee Selby and, similarly, I knew I’d beaten Samir comfortably. Two judges had me up by six and four rounds, Marcus McDonnell, a decent enough fella, just had a boo-boo that night! (Walsh won by split decision).
For me, there was no controversy whatsoever. I’m really not sure what Samir’s tactics were. Against me, he showed very little aggression which is not his normal way. He just tried to nick it rather than fight. I’ll credit him for taking some really good shots. In time, I’d like to do it again and deliver a ‘full stop’ finish.
Now you’ve had time to reflect, what value do you place on your achievement?
I was at best content. Put it this way, when Liam beat (Gary) Sykes to win his British title (November 2014), it was the happiest night of my life and I expected to replicate that. But I was a bit flat after my title win; definitely a lesser buzz. I’m a real perfectionist and the split decision didn’t really help my mood. Listening to the critical commentary when I watched the re-run was hard.
What positives did you take from the Mouneimne fight? Why can we expect you be better next time?
I finally did 12 rounds under the lights with the little gloves on. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it in the gym, nothing replicates doing it under fight conditions where every tiny mistake can cost ya.
But you learn from every camp you have; little technical things or matters of nutrition that can improve ya. The Traynor fight represents the quickest return to action that I’ve had between fights for a long time. Hopefully, the sharpness will still be there.
What role do you believe being twins has played in your joint journey to British titles?
I love the equalness of being a twin. I’m a couple of minutes older than Liam but he’s definitely wiser. As kids we always shared everything but lately he’s become a lot more fashion conscious than me and (older brother and ex unbeaten pro) Mike so won’t touch our gear!
Liam has always been same sex, roughly same height and weight, so a perfect sporting rival. Whatever we play, we try to outdo each other. It’s probably the competitiveness between us that gets the very best out of both of us.
I can just about do Liam in the sprints but he’s a phenomenal runner and bosses anything longer. My big thing is I never quit, never concede. Mike’s easily the worst loser. Being elder, he grew too used to being best at everything. But now, as men, Liam and me have caught him up and compete on an equal footing. He hates it, spits his dummy out!
As fighters, we share a good boxing brain and we’re both very tough mentally, Liam’s probably the toughest I know. He’s definitely one of my favourite fighters to watch; smoother than me and a lot more macho. At some stage of every fight, he has to have a ‘tear up’ even though he doesn’t need to. I use my brain more and have better variety…well, different variety.
You have the honour of kickstarting BoxNation’s domestic year against Traynor but, on the downside, have been in full training over the festive period. How difficult was that?
Hard. Though Mike and Liam were back in Cromer, me, my partner and daughter spent Christmas over in Tenerife. Christmas is all about putting weight on. Usually I’m cold and fat in Norfolk, this time I was hot and skinny in Spain!
On Christmas Day, I did a mountain run in the morning and a gym session in the evening. Making such sacrifices toughens you mentally. I’m sure it’ll be worth it on January 22nd.
What are your goals for 2016?
To win the Lonsdale Belt outright and possibly add the Commonwealth and European (presently held Leeds rival Josh Warrington and Ukraine’s Oleg Yefimovych respectively). If any of my fights could be held in Norfolk, as a joint homecoming with Liam, both of us in title fights, that’d be the icing on the cake.
We’ve not fought together on the same bill for far too long. There’s lots of banter as to which of us would top the bill!
How big a threat is Darren Traynor with regard to relieving you of your title?
I believe I’ve a good boxing eye and, from what I’ve seen, Darren seems a well schooled fighter who does a lot right. And given his chance to fight for the British title, I expect he’ll be even better than he’s ever been before.
Thus far, I’ve fought three Scots and the one common denominator was that they were all extremely tough. All gave me difficult, hard nights and I don’t expect this to be any different. There’s full respect; no chance of underestimating him.
One thing hopefully in my favour will be that Darren was preparing for an eliminator with James Tennyson, a tall orthodox fighter, whereas I’m a stocky southpaw switcher.
So what can fight fans expect to see at the York Hall on Friday week?
I intend to show the best possible version of Ryan Walsh; a massive improvement on my title winning performance. I definitely feel I’m getting better in the gym. I want to prove I’m a worthy champion.
My fans will take over the York Hall. So many aren’t even boxing fans yet they just stump up their hard earned money to support me, as friends. That’s very humbling. Pressure makes diamonds. ‘The Farmy Army’ are among the noisiest supporters in the country and I intend giving them plenty to cheer about.
Remaining tickets are available from Ticket Master at www.ticketmaster.co.uk and 0844 844 0444