DUBLIN (Reuters) - The United States named Ireland’s Billy Walsh as their women’s boxing coach on Wednesday, a week after his resignation in Ireland ahead of next year’s Rio Olympics caused a political storm and front-page headlines.
Rejected by the Olympic movement for years because of a perceived lack of global interest, women’s boxing was a stunning success in its debut at the 2012 London Games, with Ireland and the U.S. winning two of the three gold medals up for grabs.
The United States, a once great amateur boxing nation whose men failed to win an Olympic medal for the first time in London, took home two in the three women’s weight categories, led by teenage middleweight champion Claressa Shields.
“Coach Walsh brings extensive experience and knowledge with a proven record of success on the international boxing stage, evident in the impact he’s had on the Irish boxing program,” USA Boxing executive director Mike Martino said in a statement.
Walsh, who boxed in the 1988 Olympics, was the architect of the most successful era in Irish boxing, leading Irish fighters to more than 50 medals in the European and world championships in addition to seven medals in the last two Olympic Games.
He quit as head of Irish boxing’s high performance unit last week, a decision the decorated coach cried over after months of contract negotiations, blaming Irish boxing’s governing body for not making it possible to continue in the role.
In what is by far Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, with Olympic champion Katie Taylor and world champion Michael Conlan going for gold in Rio, his decision led television news bulletins and has been front and back page news for over a week.
After Ireland’s sports minister called on the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) to explain the “disastrous situation”, the IABA said it wanted Walsh to stay but told a parliamentary hearing convened to discuss the matter on Wednesday that it had concerns over the costs of retaining his services.
However Sport Ireland, the country’s statutory sports body, has said the IABA’s funding could come under review as a result, describing the terms attached to Walsh’s contract, such as requiring written board permission to speak to the media, as “unconscionable” and accusing it of “petty bureaucratic interference” in the running of the high performance unit.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Ken Ferris