The Walsh brothers of Cromer, Norfolk, are competitive beasts, and never more so than with each other, writes Glynn Evans.
And since making history last year as the first set of twins to simultaneously hold British titles, expect an almighty scramble between featherweight Ryan and super-feather Liam to cross the line first in the race to a world title.
Liam, already world rated at both 130 and 135lbs, was unquestionably quicker out of the traps, capturing the Commonwealth crown in his 10th pro gig (October 2010) before ascending to the domestic throne in his 17th (November 2014), while Ryan endured a frustrating pit stop in a national title spat with Lee Selby (October 2013).
However, the latter – older by a handful of minutes – is fast recovering ground on the railings and this Saturday both attempt to put a third notch on their Lonsdale Belts whilst defending on the mammoth Copper Box bill.
‘I’ll fight any man on the planet at 9st,’ declares Ryan who is currently ranked 11th by the WBO.
‘I’m in my prime at 29, feel absolutely brilliant. Though ‘Loma’ (double Olympic champion Vasyl Lomachenko) is moving up, it’s still a great division.
‘I’ve already run a world champion (Selby) pretty close when I was very inexperienced so I’d challenge any of the present champions given an opportunity. I’d travel to do it, one million per cent, and I’d refuse to be a ‘body’. I truly believe that I could do a job.’
After years in the shadows, patiently serving as a pillar of support to his high-flying sibling, Ryan’s own stock has soared sharply over the last seven months. Last September he schooled Hull’ Samir Mouneimne to collect his title, then hammered Scotland’s Darren Traynor in five, to retain in January.
He now craves being unleashed against all-comers.
‘My last three fights have all been for titles at great venues; Wembley Arena, York Hall and now the Copper Box,’ says Ryan, 20-1-1 (9).
‘Fighting regularly is so important. I love fighting. That’s why I’m so happy now. It really helps with both weight management and mentality. No time to get stale. Before, I was doing all the same work as Liam but while he was getting success, I had to wait in line.’
Realistically, a world title crack probably remains 12 months off but the cagey and cognitive switcher could certainly accelerate proceedings by bagging a Lonsdale Belt outright and adding Commonwealth and continental hardware to his collection in 2016.
‘I’ve become a bit ignorant of the other belt holders since becoming champion myself,’ concedes Ryan who nevertheless is a real student of the sport.
‘The beauty of the European and Commonwealth belts is that you get to keep them without needing to defend.
‘If you’re best in Britain you deserve to fight for the European and, if you win that, you’re all but guaranteed a chance at world level.
‘I’d love an eliminator for a world title with (Leeds unbeaten former European boss Josh) Warrington but expect he’ll get to Selby first. My whole aim is to be the best I can possibly be and I’m sure that’ll be good enough to hold one of the world title belts.’
Given that he turns 30 next month, the wily Walsh knows there is little margin for error if he is to scale the summit.
By his own admission he lost focus mid fight before trampling on Traynor and such sloppiness could have catastrophe consequences against nuclear hitting Belfast challenger James Tennyson on the weekend.
‘You shouldn’t have to lose to go back to the drawing board,’ he says.
‘Last fight, Darren caught me flush with right hands that should’ve left me on my pants but you reflect and eliminate the problem.
‘My biggest attribute as a boxer is my two brothers who advise me. (In addition to Liam, older brother Michael was an unbeaten ex pro).They’ve a wealth of similar experiences, massive collective knowledge. We all bounce ideas off one another. I’m sure the Smiths and McDonnells would tell you the same.
‘Every camp you make marginal improvements in diet, making weight, technical aspects, and all those small corrections should combine to make a BIG improvement in your next performance.
‘Consequently, come Saturday, expect me to be better than I’ve ever been.’