CROMER featherweight Ryan Walsh, one of Britain’s underrated craftsmen, defends his British featherweight title against unbeaten Lewis Paulin at York Hall, Bethnal Green this Friday (June 28).
Much like his gifted brother, Liam, Ryan has flown under the radar for the majority of his 11-year professional career but remains popular among the ‘Farmy Army’, his loyal Norfolk fanbase, and a well-schooled operator at domestic and European level.
In fact, since losing a British and Commonwealth featherweight title fight against Lee Selby in 2013, Walsh has crushed the hopes of several prospects and contenders and become a very hard man to beat. In 2015, he outscored Samir Mouneimne to win his current title and then stopped Darren Traynor and James Tennyson the following year to retain the belt. Both fights ended in the fifth round and highlighted Walsh’s ability to not only outbox opponents but break them down with spiteful counters and body shots.
After that, in December 2016, Walsh traded up his British title for a shot at the European belt. He ventured to Denmark to face undefeated Dennis Ceylan, a Dane always likely to get the benefit of any doubt should the fight go the distance, and came up short when, after 12 rounds, the judges’ scorecards announced a split-decision in favour of the home fighter.
On returning home, Walsh could have become despondent and felt sorry for himself. He could have taken some time off and emerged in a different weight class. But he did none of these things. Instead, the 33-year-old rebounded seven months later with another stoppage win in defence of his British title, this time against Ireland’s Marco McCullough, before threatening the unbeaten record of Isaac Lowe last February. Walsh and Lowe battled to a draw at the Manchester Arena and both felt they were unlucky not to win.
Walsh then defended his Lonsdale belt for a fifth time, edging Reece Bellotti, another highly touted up-and-comer, in December. It was a tough, gruelling affair, as well as a close one, but Walsh’s composure and experience over the 12-round distance ensured he stayed one step ahead of his challenger throughout.
His next foe, Paulin, a southpaw from Edinburgh, Scotland, has hardly put a foot wrong so far as a four-year pro. Unbeaten in 12 fights, he won the Scottish Area featherweight title in 2017, outpointing fellow prospect Stephen Tiffney over 10 rounds, but, ominously, this remains the standout win on a record comprising no names of note.
Perhaps this will be his breakout moment. Certainly, Paulin, now 28, is presumably mature enough, both physically and mentally, to cope with the step up in class. He is also in need of being tested, if only to discover how good he is and how good he can become.
The problem he faces on Friday, however, is that Walsh, 23-2-2 (11), has become quite the expert at stripping away the ambition of unbeaten prospects and highlighting the gulf in class between someone aspiring to become a champion and someone already there. He has used setbacks to smooth his rough edges and develop fresh tricks and should, providing he doesn’t suddenly grow old on the night, be skillful enough to outpoint Paulin and keep hold of his title.
Also on the card, a 10-round super-lightweight battle of Josh Taylor victims sees Ohara Davies, 18-2 (14), receive a decent test in the form of Miguel Vazquez, 41-7 (15), a one-time IBF lightweight champion. Both could do with a win to help forget some patchy recent form but Davies, in particular, will be eager to get back to winning ways following a 12-round defeat to Jack Catterall last October.
Chantelle Cameron, 10-0 (7), fights Anisha Basheel of Malawi over 10 rounds. Interestingly, Basheel, 8-5 (8), lost the first five fights of her pro career before then turning things around and winning the next eight (ending each of them inside the distance). Heavy-handed and dangerous, she recently beat another Brit, Sam Smith, to take the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title, but will likely find the step up in class against Cameron too much.
The Verdict Walsh loves nothing more than defending his belt against inexperienced challengers.