24-year-old super-lightweight talent Jonathan Walsh (4-0, 1KOs), trained by Paul Stevenson at the thriving Everton Red Triangle Gym, spoke exclusively with BBN’s Editor Tim Rickson during lockdown from his Liverpool home.
The Haringey Box Cup champion has raced to 4-0 as a pro within 12 months between his debut in March 2019 and his last fight in February this year.
‘Jof’ floored Paul Dulcie on his pro bow to win 40-35 on points; then came another shutout points win against Carl Turney, again over four rounds; then he scored a second-round stoppage over 145-fight veteran Youssef Al Hamidi, becoming just the fourth boxer to halt the durable Syrian from Yorkshire.
In his last assignment, he was given a tough test against the talented Chris Adaway, who has a knack for upsetting home fighters – as an amateur he won seven Western Counties titles and represented England. Walsh had to dig deep to outpoint the adept Devonian 39-38 on the scorecards.
Now that busy campaign has ground to a halt, BBN caught up with the Liverpudlian during lockdown to see how life is treating him:
Have you been training still?
“Yeah, mainly concentrating on my strength more than anything. I managed to get hold of a couple of weights, actually got 150 kilos of weights in the garden, got a bench press, a squat rack, so given myself a different goal. I’ve been doing roadwork as well about twice per week, just trying to keep my weight down.”
How difficult is it to train without something to aim for?
“I haven’t been too bad to be honest, just been concentrating on my strength work, so I’ve been quite motivated, but not been thinking about boxing too much. When you’re in camp, it’s mainly circuit work, but I’m focused on strength now, so got different goals to aim for and I’ve been enjoying it and got a lot stronger, even my run times have got faster.
I’m 10st 8/9lbs at the moment, but still quite lean, so when I come back down to 10st, I’m going to be a lot stronger. So, I haven’t struggled with motivation at all because I’ve given myself a different goal to aim for.”
Do you count yourself lucky to have been one of few to have fought already this year?
“Yeah, definitely! Most people boxed last year in November and October, there were only a few shows in December, so at least I got one in.”
That last fight you had was a tough test against Chris Adaway, did you learn a lot from that battle?
“Yeah, it was a good learning fight, he brought me down a level, because I know I’m 10 times better than that; he brought me in to his game, he was awkward as well, he’s a live opponent.”
You had five fights scheduled for the year, how disappointing is it that they’re not going ahead and how do you handle that frustration?
“Obviously, I wanted to carry that momentum on, had five fights scheduled this year but obviously coronavirus has stopped that now and I don’t know how long the break is gonna be. There’s only five fights allowed on the shows now, so let’s say we have 10 boxers per show and, say, five events per year, so that’s not many getting to fight. So it’s only going to be the elites that get on the big shows.”
Do you think boxing events will return differently after lockdown ends? Will it be harder to sell tickets?
“I was thinking the same, with all the social distancing going on I don’t know how it will go back to normal, it’s hard to say really. When all this is done with, I think it will come back quite big, people have been missing boxing, so I think the ticket sales are going to be good. Plus, they haven’t had to sell tickets so when you’re asking people to buy tickets every other week, and always asking the same people who are coming to support you, but when you haven’t asked all year… you know what I mean?
Riots are going on already, so people won’t be worried about social distancing!”
When life begins to return back to normal, what would your plans for the rest of this year be?
“I just want to get back in the gym and get back to it and get back to where I was. Obviously, I do want to box again, but the realistic side is that it won’t be this year, or maybe late this year.
I just want to get back to where I left off, I haven’t been frustrated at all, it is what it is, you can’t obsess over something you cannot change, so I just set myself new goals with the strength training. I’ll go back a lot stronger; I’m definitely enjoying the strength training, but it is for boxing purposes, but I am enjoying it still.”
The super-lightweight division in the UK currently has the world’s No.1 Josh Taylor, then there’s Jack Catterall and Lewis Ritson closing in on world title shots; how long do you believe it will be until you get up to their level?
“I sparred with Jack Catterall once, about two years ago, he was so strong and hit hard, it was in Jamie Moore’s gym. I was boxing at 64 kilos in the amateurs so when I sparred him, I could feel the weight difference, he was probably walking around a lot heavier; I was just getting ready for the ABAs. I think I could do lightweight for championships in the future, especially weighing in the day before the fight.
I haven’t gone past four rounds yet, so obviously I’m still learning as well, so I’m a couple of years away from their level, but I’m in no rush at all, I’m only 24 and I wouldn’t want to throw myself in, so only when the time’s right.”
Three of your teammates recently signed with Frank Warren, what affect has that had on you and your gym?
“Me as a person, but I can speak for everyone in the gym as well, it’s given us a little boost. It’s a foot in the door now and I think it’s given everyone a little kick up the arse.”
Talking about your Everton Red Triangle Gym, where Olympian Peter McGrail trains, it’s filled with talent, but not yet got the attention and credibilty it deserves has it?
“The only reason we’re not in the limelight is because we haven’t had the publicity yet, but I genuinely feel that we’re one of the best gyms in the country, and Nick [Ball, 12-0 featherweight] will be the first one to put us on the scene.
I’ve worked with some good coaches but the way Paul [Stevenson] explains things to you and how he gets things across. Some days we will go in and just work on one shot or one combination for an hour, or shadow box for an hour. Paul drills stuff into you; like I said, we can spend a full hour just shadow boxing, then might do different work or different drill the next day, but still learning the same combo.
Every day we watch fights in the gym before the session takes place, we spent a whole week studying Julio Cesar Chavez from his early career and then watched him develop as a world champion up to four different weight classes. We’d study Chavez for a couple of weeks then watch the heavyweights next. I like to watch the old fighters as well for their hand positions and where they place their hands, and finding the gaps.
I always like to watch Manny Pacquiao because he was so exciting and never dodged anyone. I’m always watching Andrew Cain in the gym. I watched Floyd Mayweather vs Maidana 2 this week, I watched the first one last week; it’s interesting to see how Mayweather done his homework and gets better n the rematch. The first time, he got surprised, but second time he boxed his head off. Like Joshua did with Ruiz, he underestimated him a bit then second time he boxed his head off.”
Everton Red Triangle Gym, in association with Black Flash Promotions, plan their entire year’s events ahead. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and subsequent ban on all boxing events under the jurisdiction of the BBBofC, May and July’s events were cancelled. The remaining planned dates are September 5 and November 14.
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