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04th Nov 2023

Callum Walsh: Living in LA, boxing under Manny Pacquiao’s coach, and playing Gaelic football stateside

Lee Costello

Callum Walsh

“I was playing for the LA Cougars.”

Callum Walsh is undoubtedly Ireland’s next big hope in the world of boxing and despite rubbing shoulders with pugilist superstars, the Corkman still made time for Gaelic football. 

Walsh was a promising amateur with aspirations of boxing in the Olympics for Ireland, but COVID-19 put a halt to boxing at that level, so with no time to waste, the Cork native decided to go professional.

Just to underline how seriously he was taking this decision, he packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles with no trainer or professional contract, and just took matters into his own hands.

The silky southpaw knows his boxing, and grew up watching superstars like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, so he of course new all about the Wild Card gym ran by legendary coach Freddie Roach.

Roach guided Pacquiao through his career, winning world titles across a record-breaking eight weight divisions, so who better to go to than him?

In a world where you email, Zoom, Skype, text, call or Facebook message in advance, Walsh took an old school approach and just showed up at the gym with nothing but his gear in a bag, and itchy knuckles.

“I just showed up at the gym,” Walsh exclusively told SportsJOE.

“I knocked on the door and asked if I could train and he (Freddie Roach) said that I can train but it’s a sparring day today, so if I want to train I had to spar.

“It was against Blair Cobbs, who was like 15-1 at the time, so he was an experienced pro – so I sparred, I impressed Freddie, and he just said ‘you can come back tomorrow’ and I have been coming back every day since.

“Then when I made my pro debut, Freddie agreed to train me.”

Callum Walsh

Sounds pretty straightforward and simple, but then these things tend to be when you have bags of talent, enthusiasm, and ambition. Under Roach Walsh has won his eight first professional bouts, seven by knockout.

The Irishman already has the WBC USA Super Welterweight belt, and will be heading Madison Square Garden in New York this Thursday as he prepares to take on Ismael Villarreal.

Backed by UFC boss Dana White, the young brawler has a bright future ahead of him, but that doesn’t mean he has forgotten his Irish roots, as he admitted he was still playing Gaelic football while in LA.

“I was actually playing Gaelic football for a while for the LA Cougars, and when I turned pro I was playing a few games every now and again, but when I explained to Freddie Roach what it was he was like ‘you can’t be playing that anymore, running around a field bumping into fellows’.

“I had showed him a few videos and he said I had to leave off the Gaelic football. I think it was after my third fight, I fought on the Friday and played Gaelic on the Saturday.

“Play me wherever, you can just lump me wherever and I’ll be alright, there was a few Americans on the team too, so you were just all thrown in and you had to figure it out.”

With his football career unfortunately coming to an end, he can take solace in the fact that he has at least brought some new fans to the sport, and even has Roach sporting a Cork jersey.

Callum Walsh takes on Ismael Villareal at Madison Square Garden on November 9th live on UFC Fight Pass.

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