“Your family are the ones you should be enjoying your life with and I’m lucky, more than lucky, that I get to share my career and all of my life with my brothers.”
It doesn’t take a genius watching either Ryan or Liam Walsh fight to see that the Walsh brothers are a tight knit bunch. Roared on proudly by their legion of fans, the Farmy Army, Ryan and Liam who are twins and their slightly older brother Michael are always, everywhere together.
Ryan is a devoted family man, and so much of our talk was centered on his brother’s lives and careers. I first ask about Michael, who has not fought since 2015 despite an astonishing record of eleven wins from eleven fights at featherweight. All within the distance. Yes, you read that right. Eleven fights, eleven wins, eleven knockouts, at featherweight.
Five of those victims didn’t make it out of round one. Who wouldn’t want to see that excitement return to the ring? Good news then, because,
“Michael has now decided he’s gonna come back, it’s crazy. His plan is to donate a significant sum to Great Ormond St. Hospital. It’s because of his son Liam, who is a miracle.
He’s had heart operations and at one point was clinically dead. It was barbaric and horrendous but the joy is that he’s here and he’s brilliant and so beautiful.”
Suddenly sport seems so far away, so much happens outside the ring, and outside the gym, and the Walsh family suffer and celebrate every bit of it together. It isn’t the only hardship the family has battled together. Ryan returns to extolling his older brother’s boxing attributes.
“Michael is dangerous, he’s unpredictable. He knocked Ian Bailey, a very good fighter who took Selby the distance, took Frampton the distance, down four times then out in one round.”
There is clearly friendly competition between the three, and Ryan rates Liam as not just the best of them, but of anyone he’s fought.
“The best of I’ve been in with is my brother Liam. He’s horrible! I am his and Michael’s biggest fan.”
A multiple belt winner at super featherweight, Liam Walsh returned in May two years after a loss to Baltimore bruiser Gervonta “Tank” Davis for the IBF World Title. A third round stoppage of Nicaraguan Rejnaldo Cajina was a good way to return but next up is Yorkshire southpaw Maxi Hughes, a step up in weight for the WBO European Lightweight Title.
“Liam has a lot of respect for what Maxi brings- he’s a tough guy, never ducked anyone and is with a good stable at the minute with Josh Warrington’s dad. They will be coming to win.
He’s done a five week camp with me in Tenerife, he’s a good size lightweight and has an opportunity with a good performance here to separate himself from the pack- as I believe I did with my last fight.
We’ll think about the future after Maxi, we have to beat him first.”
“We”, have to beat him first. Team Walsh. Together. Surely, the fantasy is to headline with his twin?
“Oh If I could ask for anything it’d be me and Liam, double headed bill, in Norwich. With Michael now back all of us. That would be nice, seeing how many Farmy Army we could get out. They’re great, they go all the way to York Hall and go nuts, we’re lucky to have them as fans.”
They have great fans and a brotherly bond, however the Walsh familial fortitude stems primarily from their father, John. As Ryan puts it they’re a “product of our environment”. Talking about him dusts sadness over Ryan’s chipper voice,
“23rd December 2011, he did do his best to prepare us but it was still a shock losing someone so sudden.
It was bad, it was rubbish but I’ve got to be grateful for what he gave us, I’ve got his blood, his DNA and I’m not religious but I am spiritual and I can feel him in the crowd at York Hall. His presence. It’s why I love it there so much.
It was horrible but time is the greatest healer.”
The loss of John still clearly cuts deep, but it seems that like everything else in his life, Ryan uses it to drive him forward. Looking to his past to propel him to his future. To their future. “He always said you’re blood and as a three you’re invincible”.
From the outside looking in, John was right. They’re a close three, but that’s just the brothers. Between Ryan, Liam and Michael there are a fair few more Walshes. I ask whether they have any children, “I’ve five, Liam four and Mike six”. There could be many more boxing for Team Walsh in front of the Farmy Army yet!
In the absence of their patriarch John, the role of father figure has been assumed by the “businessman”, Michael. “No one loves us more than Michael, it’s impossible. Everything he does is him, and it’s real, he’ll never not be him.
I can’t talk enough or give credit to my family, I’d not be where I am without them. They’re beyond special.”
At home or at work the Walsh family shares everything, it sounds they always will and anyone with a large family will know how hard work that can be sometimes. Something my family leans on heavily, in good times and in bad, so too do the Walshes.
“I laugh harder with my brothers than anything. It’s my favourite. When I laugh on me own it’s fun but with them it’s so much better.”
Agreed. Here’s to family and laughter.