Disaster for Irish boxing as Billy Walsh resigns to take up new job in America 5 years ago

Disaster for Irish boxing as Billy Walsh resigns to take up new job in America

Terrible news for Irish boxing.

Billy Walsh has today resigned as head coach of the Irish High Performance Unit, just days after leading Ireland to its first ever gold medal at the boxing world championships.

The Wexford native is to take up a job with the United States women's boxing team, which could see him training opponents of Ireland's defending Olympic champion Katie Taylor in Rio next year.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Walsh laid the blame for his departure at the feet of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) who he says, after months of contract negotiations, "have not made it possible for me to continue on in the role as Head Coach of the High Performance Unit and senior team".

Walsh was in the Irish corner in Doha as Michael Conlan made history, the bantamweight becoming the first Irish gold medallist at a world championships. There were also medals for Joe Ward (silver) at light-heavyweight and Michael O'Reilly (bronze) in the middleweight division, as the unprecedented success of Irish boxers in international competitions continued.

In his 12 years directing operations at the elite gym on Dublin's South Circular Road Ireland have seen six different boxers climb the Olympic podium: Kenneth Egan, Paddy Barnes (twice), the late Darren Sutherland, John Joe Nevin, Conlan and Taylor.

AIBA World Boxing Championships, Almaty, Kazakhstan 22/10/2013 60kg: Sean McComb (Ireland) vs Elvin Isayev (Azerbaijan) Coaches Zaur Antia and Billy Walsh look on during Ireland's Sean McComb fight against Elvin Isayev of Azerbaijan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The only bright side to today's hammer blow is the fact that Walsh's right-hand man, Zaur Anita, is staying on. The popular Georgian should be first in line to succeed Walsh, however nothing should be taken as a given when it comes to Irish amateur boxing and its internal politics.

Reports of Walsh's dissatisfaction with his new contract surfaced in August after the IABA torpedoed the Irish Sports Council's compromise agreement.

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Walsh today claimed the negotiations began in February:  "A protracted process that went on for eight months included numerous high level meetings that resulted in various proposals.

"In August a fair proposal was developed under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council (ISC) that was acceptable and fair but then not subsequently ratified by IABA," he added.

"I was hopeful in recent weeks that a final proposal arising out of an approach in late September by the IABA would lead to a successful conclusion but unfortunately it didn’t.

"Regrettably the IABA have not made it possible for me to continue on in the role as Head Coach of the High Performance Unit and senior team."

The timing of Walsh's resignation would suggest he had made his decision before the world championships but delayed making his announcement for fear of disrupting his team's preparations. Their haul of three medals validated Walsh's decision and provided him with a glorious sign off to his 12 years with the HPU.

He will now move to Colorado to help prepare the USA women's team for next summer's Rio Olympics.

"While leaving the Irish Team has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, my sights are now firmly set on my future role with USA Boxing.

"It is a huge honor for me as a coach to receive the opportunity work with such an iconic sporting nation that is the USA. I am greatly looking forward to the opportunities ahead in bringing my expertise and experience to the USA Women’s Team as they prepare for success in Rio and beyond."

Read Walsh's full statement below.

"It is with deep regret that I am announcing my resignation, as of today’s date, October 19th 2015, as the Head Coach of the Irish High Performance Unit and senior team. This morning I forwarded my resignation to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) Chief Executive Officer Fergal Carruth.

"Over the last five decades I have been immersed in the sport of boxing from boy to man and for club and country. I am hugely grateful for the opportunities that my sport has given me both as a boxer and coach.

"Since February of this year I have been engaged in a process with the IABA to secure my future as Head Coach with the High Performance Unit and senior team. A protracted process that went on for eight months included numerous high level meetings that resulted in various proposals. In August a fair proposal was developed under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council (ISC) that was acceptable and fair but then not subsequently ratified by IABA.

"I was hopeful in recent weeks that a final proposal arising out of an approach in late September by the IABA would lead to a successful conclusion but unfortunately it didn’t.

"Regrettably the IABA have not made it possible for me to continue on in the role as Head Coach of the High Performance Unit and senior team.

"In starting out on this journey back in 2003 our ambition was centered on building a sustainable system for Irish Boxing and I think we have achieved that. This has been achieved with the work of many excellent people including our outstanding club coaches who produce the pipeline of talent for us in high performance to work with.

"Our high performance coaching team contains some of the finest and hardworking coaches in the world, both those from international shores and homegrown. These coaches are part of the legacy of all the hard work it took to build this system.

"Zaur Antia, Jim Moore, Eddie Bolger, Pete Taylor, John Conlan, Billy McClean and Dmytri are well positioned to take my work and the work of the high performance programme forward and lead this senior team into Rio to compete for medals. I have the utmost faith and belief in them having worked alongside them for many years. I am certain our boxers will go to Rio in fantastic shape, ready to compete with the world’s best as the high performance structures are in place to ensure this.

"To Emira who provides all our administration and logistics support and gets the team all over the world with little fuss thank you.

"We are moving in to our 14th year together as a team and I can say that while there were many difficult and challenging times, I have never done anything in my professional life more rewarding.

"The boxers I have worked with (too many to mention for fear of leaving some out) have inspired and challenged me in equal measure and I salute their efforts, their courage and their amazing performances down through these last 14 years. I wish to thank them for their trust and support and for allowing me to continue in their corner for every fight they fought on the international stage. I wish them all every success in their endeavors to qualify and secure Olympic Medals at Rio and nobody will be more delighted to see Irish boxers succeed in Rio than me.

"To our outstanding sports science and medicine team of physiotherapists, nutritionist, psychologist, strength conditioner, performance analyst and doctor who for all these years operated and performed below the radar so that we could do what we did above it, thank you. This was always a team effort.

"I wish to express my gratitude to the Irish Sports Council for all their support and commitment to the IABA High Performance Programme over the course of the last 14 years and most recently in trying to broker an agreement on this matter. The Sports Council have supported Irish boxing and worked tirelessly to find a solution

"I am very conscious that the negotiations have dragged on for quite some time, but the time has come, with the Rio Olympics in sight and with no solution possible, to provide certainty to all concerned.

"Finally I would like to thank my wife Christine and my family for all their support and patience during this time.

"While leaving the Irish Team has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, my sights are now firmly set on my future role with USA Boxing.  It is a huge honor for me as a coach to receive the opportunity work with such an iconic sporting nation that is the USA. I am greatly looking forward to the opportunities ahead in bringing my expertise and experience to the USA Women’s Team as they prepare for success in Rio and beyond."