Fears are growing that the partnership between Billy Walsh and Zaur Antia which has brought unprecedented success to Irish boxing is about to be broken up.
Walsh and Antia have been driving the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s High Performance unit for many years, honing numerous boxers for World, European and Olympic glory — the most recent of which were Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes at London 2012.
Conlan — who along with fellow bronze medallist Barnes enjoyed an open top bus tour of Belfast yesterday — has made his feelings clear regarding a desire to strike gold in Rio in four years time but only if Walsh and Antia are with him.
Conlan said: “If Zaur and Billy aren’t the coaches I’ll not be in Irish amateur boxing. I’ll turn pro right away if they leave.
“They’re the best coaches in the world without a doubt. The way they work together, everything they do is unreal. Their tactics for every fight are perfect.”
It is understood that Walsh and Antia were both sounded out by other boxing federations during the London Games with both this week waiting to agree long term deals with the association.
Both men are known to be running out of patience and, frankly, if Irish boxing was to lose either it would be a serious blow to future success. Walsh has proven himself to be a top tactician while Antia is one of the world’s leading technical coaches.
Walsh said: “There is no security for us at the moment.
“In the next few weeks we'll probably sit down and discuss it. It has to be secured. There are countries looking for Zaur. I've had approaches myself.”
Meanwhile, Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor has already had offers from top British promoters to turn professional.
Eddie Hearn and Amir Khan’s father Shah have made approaches to Irish star Taylor, according to her dad and coach Peter.
Walsh said: “It’s purely a decision for her and her father.
“I’ve spoken to her myself and she’s very happy with what we’ve delivered for her as a programme.
“She thanked me for it but she has challenges to face,” he said.
“She has done everything as an amateur. Can she be motivated to go back and repeat it?
“We will support her 100 per cent. Whatever it takes to get her there, we’ll do it.”