Cromer’s Liam Walsh (9st 3lbs) is nicknamed “Destiny” yet seemed destined to never reach the Holy Grail of a world title shot after a car crash ruled him out of a meeting with then-WBO lightweight titlist Ricky Burns in 2012. His father had died the previous year and, moving forwards, a hand injury ruled him out of an eliminator against Petr Petrov, which had been pencilled in for October 10 of last year.
Since 2010, when he fought four times, Walsh has had a staccato schedule: two outings in 2011 (including a memorable 10th-round corner retirement win over Paul Appleby on BoxNation’s opening night), a single one in 2012, followed by two fights per year in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The 30-year-old switch-hitter has talent, though, and this was once again on how show when he opened his 2016 ledger with an eighth-round TKO win over Troy James in April.
Conversely, tonight’s opponent Andrey Klimov (9st 3lbs) has had a glamorous assignment, a fight against rising star Terence Crawford in October 2013 (L10)—Crawford beat Burns in his next one—as well as a vacant IBF World Super featherweight title shot (L12 against Jose Pedraza in June of last year).
The 34-year-old, California-based Russian is trained by Buddy McGirt, and after some stale early rounds the veteran trainer was imploring his man to force his way into a contest that was in real danger of slipping away from the former Russia lightweight titlist.
The visitor had his best round in the sixth, rousing himself sufficiently to slip through a few clean shots. Walsh, though, snaked home a few jabs late in the session then dropped his man with a straight right hand just as the bell sounded to end the stanza. Klimov rose and returned to his corner, where McGirt once again barked out the need for more urgency.
Perhaps it was a case of the “Hagler effect”, Klimov racked up three wins in 2014 to rebound from the Crawford fight, but had had a single outing in 2015—that mentally crushing world title loss.
Speaking to HBO ahead of Marvin Hagler’s fight against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987, legendary trainer and pundit Gil Clancy had warned that, despite Leonard’s patchy recent schedule, Hagler had gone from being busy to taking a yearly hiatus—Clancy predicted that this could tell come the night due to styles.
Without meaning any disrespect, Walsh is no Leonard and Klimov no Hagler, but the British boxer’s natural talent can fill in the gaps between fights whereas the Russian looked out-of-sorts and struggled to find any rhythm going into the championship rounds.
However, there was a minor scare, as Walsh was Mars Bar’d across his nose in the 10th—the slight trickle of blood giving him something to think about, he also glanced nervously at his right hand, prompting fears of another injury, only to pop one home as the round eked away.
Walsh (21-0, 14 KOs) cruised through the final stretch, stretching his lead en route to a decision win—by scores of 119-108, 120-107, 120-107—and taking a huge leap towards his own personal Holy Land in the process. Klimov (19-3, 9 KOs) failed to get a foothold in the fight and can have no complaints. Buddy McGirt on the other hand…