California Dreamin’: Ireland’s Callum Walsh on staying focused in La La Land
LIFTING his head from the pillow, Callum Walsh drinks in the Californian sunshine and ponders his journey from Cork, Ireland, to Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in glamorous Los Angeles.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” he tells Boxing News. “It’s, like, I’m here! Right now! In LA! Waking up and I’m just about to go to the gym. It is a crazy feeling. But I can’t let any of that go to my head. The plan is working, I just have to keep doing what I’ve always done and just work hard until I’m a world champion.”
The super-welterweight prospect is currently preparing for his sixth professional fight, taking on Leonardo di Stefano Ruiz in Boston over St Patrick’s Day weekend. Walsh may have been just 20 years old when he made his professional debut in 2021 but his early start in boxing meant he’d already built up a raft of experience in the amateur code.
“I didn’t choose boxing. It was when I was young, I was probably six years old. It was my dad actually, he just put me into a boxing club. And I just stayed at it ever since. I just loved it,” he recalls.
“I think it definitely was a massive benefit that I started boxing at such a young age. By the time I was 15-16 I already had massive experience. It was a good amateur career. I won six national titles, a European gold medal.”
Despite his young age Walsh had set his sights on making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A loss to Belfast’s Aiden Walsh put paid to that goal, but from the ashes of that dream came an opportunity in Hollywood the young Irishman simply couldn’t refuse.
“I wanted to try and fight him (Aiden Walsh) again. I wanted to see if I could get a box off for a place. But then obviously with COVID and everything, that’s why I came over here to LA to train. I wanted to just train with Freddie (Roach) and train here for a couple of weeks and then go home and try and get a box off. But then me and Freddie had a good relationship and everything was going well here so then that’s when I decided to stay.”
The spark between fighter and trainer has continued to develop, with Walsh demonstrating the fruit of this education by way of a perfect 5-0 record, including 4 stoppages. The young prospect has a clear sense of what he wants to bring to the sport as an entertainer, and feels the meshing of amateur schooling with Roach’s seek-and-destroy ethos will take him to the very top.
“I have a picture of me and Freddie when I was, like, 15. So I just always wanted to train in the Wild Card. Working with a legend like Freddie Roach, the amount of knowledge the man has is crazy. And I’m learning new things from him every day. It’s unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to be an exciting fighter for the fans and definitely try to give them what they want. The fans want to see exciting fights, they want to see knockouts, they want to see blood and a war. Just entertainment at the end of the day. Freddie’s style is definitely something that will benefit me throughout my career, and the fact that I came from a good amateur background of boxing to be able to mix in the aggressive style from Freddie and have both styles.”
Behind the scenes Walsh has obtained illustrious backing. Tom Loeffler, a promoter who’s worked with the likes of the Klitschko brothers and Gennadiy Golovkin, was quick to snap up the young prospect after spotting his potential. Additionally, the UFC’s Dana White has added Walsh to his UFC Fight Pass subscription service. Buoyed by witnessing the enthusiasm of Irish-American fans in MMA, Walsh has been taken on in the hope of maximising the commercial potential that comes with a fighter who hails from the Emerald Isle.
“I haven’t heard Freddie speak of a young fighter the way he did about Callum as far as his potential,” says Loeffler.
“He fits right into the style that’s perfect for Freddie; that Manny Pacquiao, big puncher, southpaw style. And like Callum mentioned, coming from an amateur style to the Wild Card, refining his professional style really seems like it’s a perfect fit. We flew up to Las Vegas to meet with Dana White in January (2022). And all of a sudden when we sat down with Dana I saw he was thinking right away about the success he’d had with Conor McGregor and the Irish fans. He was looking at Callum Walsh on the boxing side with the Irish fan base. And so that’s how that all developed with Dana and he’s 100 per cent supporting him and supportive of Callum’s career.”
Having fought four times last year Walsh is hoping for an equally active 2023, continuing his professional development whilst building his profile as the sort of exciting knockout artist his fellow countrymen will rush to see. The opportunity to do this in Boston, on St Patrick’s Day weekend, is something he’s clearly relishing.
“I definitely want to put on a show and I definitely want to get knockouts. I never want a fight going to go eight rounds. I never want to go that long. We never want to be in a boring fight. I want to give the fans what they want. They pay to come and see me so we need to give them what they want,” he declares.
“I don’t care who I fight. I trust in them, in Tom (Loeffler), I trust what Dana has planned and I know that they have the right plans for me. So, I just let them tell me when I’m going to fight and who it is and I just say, “OK.” There’s never any problem. Opponents, I’m never picking and choosing. I’ll just say, “yeah, that’s fine.” I know I’m ready for the top level. I know, I can feel in myself that I am ready. So, any fight, I’ll accept.”
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