Jimmy Walsh with Claire Grace

Jimmy Walsh with Claire Grace

Kilkenny boxing stalwart Jimmy Walsh has been nominated for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) Hall of Fame Coaching Award after a lifetime of service to the sport.

The Callan BC coach has been involved in boxing for 72 years and described AIBA World No. 8 ranked welterweight Claire Grace as a very quite person – until she steps in the ring.

“Claire joined us when she was twelve. She came into the club with her sister and brother and you could hardly get a word out of her. She was as quite as a mouse. I asked her did she want to step into the ring and spar, said Walsh.

“Well, she was only sparing a young fella for a minute or so and she had him on the floor. She’s a big hitter.”

Grace went on to win twelve Irish titles, five of which are Elite, and is the only Irish woman besides Olympic champion Katie Taylor to medal at European Elite level.

Walsh first boxed for the Callan BC in 1946. “I was beaten by Tony Coyne, a very good boxer from the St Patrick’s club back then, but I loved the sport from that moment on.”

He took the boat to London in search of employment in 1954 and ended up competing for the Kensington ABC and Middle Row ABC after catching the eye of a “Kens” coach following his win over their top middleweight prospect after being invited to spar at the club.

Walsh passed a coaching exam in the English capital and secured an Open title. He also sparred world pro champion Terry “The Paddington Express” Downes on more than one occasion.

“Terry never stopped coming forward, I suppose that’s why they called him the Paddington Express,” said Walsh.

He returned to Ireland in the late 1950s and boxed briefly with St Patrick’s before returning to his the old alma mater, the Callan BC.

“ I was boxing, coaching and staying involved with the sport and I’m still going strong at it,” added the ex Leinster champion.

Walsh has no hesitation in describing Grace’s bronze medal win at the 2014 European Elite Championships in Romania as a very proud moment.

Grace was unlucky not to add another prestigious medal to her collection later that year at the Word Elite Women’s Championships in Asia.

The current Irish Elite champion beat Romania’s Cristina Stanca in her first bout in South Korea, but sustained a deep cut over her eye and had to cede a walkover to Turkey’s Guluzar Kara in the last 16.

“It was a nasty cut and she had to get a few stitches. Pity was she had won her first bout well and she would have fancied her chances of getting amongst the medals, said Walsh.

“It was a very proud moment for us when she won European bronze, unbelievable really. Claire has a great attitude to the sport and she’d train eight nights a week if she could. She’s a great boxer, big punch.

“I’m still involved, still here with the club. We had thirty four boys and girls training this week, all looking forward to the tournaments coming up and all boxing well. It’s fabulous to see them all here training with the staff and doing so well.”

Walsh also won a hurling title with the famed Kilkenny club John Lockes as a young man, but the noble art will always be his first love.

“Myself and my family have been involved in all sorts of sports all our lives, mostly boxing and hurling. You meet great people in sport, but the best people of them all are those involved in boxing.”

The IABA Annual Awards will be held at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel next Friday night, January 29th. Over twenty awards will be presented in celebration of an outstanding year in international and domestic competition.

Tickets are now on sale from the National Stadium. Email sally@iaba.ie or ring (01) 4033 033 for ticket information.