The last Irish fighter Freddie Roach trained who boxed in Boston during his rise as a prospect went on to win the WBO middleweight and super middleweight titles.
Dublin’s Stevie Collins beat British legends Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn twice apiece during a remarkable run in 1995 and 1996 and is one of the most revered boxers in Ireland’s history. Roach, who worked with Collins later in Collins’ career, has comparable hopes for Callum Walsh, an Irish junior middleweight who will headline a card Thursday, the night before St. Patrick’s Day, at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
“It’s gonna be a lotta fun,” Roach told BoxingScene.com. “He’s an Irish fighter, so it reminds me of back when Stevie Collins was back there and made a big splash at that time. Now he’s the new Irish kid and I can’t wait to show him off, because he’s a very good prospect.”
Cork’s Walsh is 5-0 and has knocked out four of his opponents. The 22-year-old Walsh will face Wesley Tucker (15-4, 9 KOs) in a 10-round main event that’ll be streamed by UFC Fight Pass (www.ufcfightpass.com; 7 p.m. ET; $9.99 per month).
“I put him in with guys who come to fight,” Roach said. “The thing is, I don’t want my guy chasing a guy for 10 rounds. I want a fight. I want my guy to show that he can punch. I know our opponent can punch, also, so we’ve gotta be careful about that. But I want him to go out there and fight the best fighters he can fight.”
Tucker, a southpaw from Toledo, Ohio, is 1-4 in his past five fights, but two of those losses came against contenders Ivan Golub (21-1, 16 KOs) and Alexander Besputin (15-0, 11 KOs, 1 NC). He replaced Germany’s Leonardo di Stefano Ruiz (10-1, 9 KOs) on short notice because di Stefano Ruiz suffered a fractured finger while training.
Walsh will make his 10-round debut in just his sixth professional fight.
“He’s a young kid, 22, but he has sparred with all kinds of better fighters,” Roach said. “You know, he’s a good southpaw. His left hand is very, very dangerous. He’s knocked out a few guys in the gym. It’s been working out well for him. His confidence is really great.”
An accomplished amateur, Walsh wanted to represent Ireland at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The COVID-19 pandemic changed his plan and led him to travel from Ireland two years ago to Roach’s famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California.
Walsh, who is promoted by Tom Loeffler, arrived at Wild Card unannounced, hopeful that Roach would work with him. Roach made him spar right away and believes training in that competitive environment ever since has enabled the ambitious Walsh to develop at an accelerated pace.
“I think it’s helped him quite a bit,” Roach said. “He comes to work every day, works hard. The only problem I had with him so far is that he didn’t really believe in roadwork. And I said, ‘Don’t you do roadwork?’ The kid said, ‘No,’ so I said, ‘Well, you do now.’ Since he started doing roadwork, he’s a whole different person. I changed that with him, so that’s been a great improvement. I think this kid can be something special.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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