Long-reigning British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh tells Danny Flexen how defences against Jordan Gill and Issac Lowe failed to materialise, but he’s grateful to be out next week
Ryan Walsh is the longest reigning British champion that still holds the championship and, having racked up four wins and a draw in defence of the Lonsdale Belt, not only has secured ownership of the coveted strap, but is, by some distance, the domestic title-holder who has retained the most times. The WBO No. 7 turned 33 last month, an age where many featherweights are retiring or fading in form, and should have moved on from domestic level long ago. That he hasn’t appears due to a couple of contentious verdicts and, more recently, the lack of a big-name challenger to propel him to the next level and beyond.
“I’ve had two British prospects who were both my mandatory challenger and they found ways not to fight me,” Walsh told me, as he rounded off preparations for the man who did step up, Lewis Paulin, who he meets next week. “Isaac lowe decided an eight-rounder in Vegas was more important, while I signed a contract to fight Jordan Gill but he found two fights instead of me this year. This is through no fault at my end, but it’s been a pretty frustrating British reign; how people give away a mandatory shot at the British title makes no sense to me. I was under the impression that Reece Bellotti [who he outscored in December] and Gill was a two-fight deal; we even had the figures sorted.
“I drew with Lowe in February last year but that decision was disgusting; it was a hometown, home-cooked decision, he ran all night. The vacant European title fight with Denis Ceylan I won by four points easy… there are loads of things but I don’t wanna get hung up. Getting more fights was exactly why I kept the British title, but Lowe pulled out for October and Gill, there was no purse bid for this May. Now I’m never gonna vacate the British title unless I outgrow the weight.”
Walsh’s frustration is both palpable and largely justified. But, should he get past unbeaten Scottish southpaw Paulin – talented and a potential banana skin – a positive change that began three months ago when Ryan joined management powerhouse MTK, could accelerate. Globally, the fluctuating featherweight division could seen lead to opportunities opening up for fighters towards the lower end of the world top 10s and Walsh, with MTK behind him, is well placed to capitalise.
“MTK will hopefully change my fortunes,” the twin of former world title challenger Liam Walsh, and younger brother of undefeated Michael, added. “I joined them three months ago and I’ve already got a fight. MTK also made me happy because they got Liam fighting again.
“We are both ready-made title challengers, we’ve got the experience, a good following, we’re not prospects, we are tried and tested. All I want to do is fight regularly because that’s when I’m at my best. I’m hearing Michael Conlan [WBO No. 5] may go down to super-bantam, Carl Frampton [No. 4] is only interested in fighting champions and [that body’s champion] Oscar Valdez is looking at going up to 130. If that title does become vacant, it’s a free-for-all.”