Here at Eurosport Towers, we are always on the lookout for British boxers who could be ‘the next big thing’ - that up-and-coming, 15-fights-or-so-unbeaten guys who look like they might have a role to play on a world stage down the line.
George Groves, Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton all stand on the edge of international success and recognition, but just a short way behind are a number of exciting fighters who could easily follow them into the upper echelons of the sport.
One such case is Liam Walsh, the Cromer-based boxer who for all intents and purposes ended the career of former world featherweight boss Scott Harrison at Wembley in April.
Norfolk has not had a particularly rich pugilistic history – other than Herbie Hide, one really has to go back to the brilliantly-named middleweight Ginger Sadd, who once beat future world champ Freddie Mills, to find a fighter of real note from the area.
But now Walsh and his two boxing brothers, super bantamweights Ryan and Michael, are aiming to prove that there are better things coming out of the county than the A11.
Liam began constructing his record of 14-0 (10 KO’s) in the super featherweight division in 2008. From his 10th bout on he has met significant opponents – some of whom have been able to ask serious questions of him.
In that 10th fight he faced Ghanaian Maxwell Awuku for the 130lb Commonwealth belt. Walsh had not previously been beyond six rounds and, perhaps unsurprisingly, flagged in the seventh and eighth stanzas, but rallied to win comfortably over the full 12.
In his first defence more problems were posed by Jon Kays (then 13-1-0), who was arguably winning the fight until a powerful body shot ended matters in the tenth session.
Next came perhaps the defining fight of Walsh’s career thus far, against tough Scot Paul Appleby on a sweltering night at York Hall.
Walsh started forcefully but again seemed to slow a little in the middle rounds. Still, it was a surprise when a short left hook put him on the canvas at the end of the seventh.
“I didn’t know what hit me,” he said post-fight – so it was all the more impressive that he came out for the eighth with all guns blazing, taking the fight back to Appleby in what became a slugfest.
While the Scot may not quite be world-class, he was a formidable opponent for a still-developing talent, and Walsh showed power, stamina and real character to come back from his first knockdown to close the fight out in the 10th. The bout was rightly selected as ‘British Fight of the Year’ by the BBBofC.
After an absence from the ring of nearly 10 months, partially enforced by the premature death of his father aged just 49, the Cromer man then stepped up to lightweight to take on Domenico Urbano for the vacant WBO European title.
While probably winding down in his career, the Italian had been EU champ at featherweight and was clearly no mug, having never been stopped. Walsh – wearing shorts embroidered with the word “Dad” - changed all that in the eighth session.
What was interesting was that Walsh had clearly improved since his previous bout. He showed excellent shot-selection and use of combinations, and there were no significant lapses in concentration such as those seen in the Awuku and Appleby fights.
The Harrison bout was one that held further potential pitfalls as despite the Glaswegian’s age and his problems outside the ring he clearly still possessed the talent and experience to see off any posers.
Walsh started slowly before giving himself room to box using his jab, wearing down the former champion and landing a few bombs along the way, taking a unanimous decision.
Detractors could say that Walsh has not been dominant in some of these fights; that he has been caught by some big shots and that stronger finishers may have found him out.
But as a work-in-progress who has taken everything thrown at him, come out on top and shown some star quality along the way, he has done all that has been asked of him – and shown improvement.
He’ll need to focus on a weight to box at – he says he has every intention of going back down to super feather from lightweight, which looking at the respective divisions may not be a bad idea.
He also needs more action, having fought just twice in nearly two years, with no sign of another bout yet in 2013 – hopefully, not a sign of issues outside the ring.
That aside, with the tools, talent and heart he possesses – and with the backing of his highly vocal fans, the “Farmy Army” – Liam Walsh could well ensure that the ‘next big thing’ will come out of Norfolk.
Chas Early | Follow on Twitter