IABA say they are in "complete shock" at Billy Walsh resignation

Shock: Billy Walsh
Shock: Billy Walsh

The IABA has publicly claimed "complete shock" over the resignation of Billy Walsh and claims not to know the non-financial reasons he left his post in the High Performance Unit.

The decorated boxing coach left Dublin yesterday morning after resigning from his position as head coach of the High performance Unit earlier this week after eight months of negotiations failed to result in a new deal.

Yesterday Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring and Sport admitted he had given up on the chance of persuading Walsh to change his mind, and called on the sporting body to issue a statement, which they did this morning.

In the statement the body claims it "did everything within reason to meet his demands" and were under the impression the coach was going to sign a new contract before announcing his resignation on Monday.

Speaking on Newstalk's The Pat Kenny Show this morning, chairman Joe Crystal said there was nothing more they could do to prevent Walsh from leaving for America.

"In the interests of Irish boxing, it was and is our opinion that it is best to do everything possible in our power to retain his services," he said.

"After the proposal on August 22nd, a deal was brokered by Minister for Sport Michael Ring on 14th September. Minister Ring brought the IANA down to Athlone and Sports Council. He set out 'this is what I want' having taken into account all the concerns

"That deal was put with full consent and knowledge of both the Sports Council and IABA. We did a deal with him [Walsh] on Monday, offering all the terms the Minister and the Sports Council had indicated were to be offered to him.

"The deal took into account the concerns of the IABA which had not been taken into account of in the draft proposal on August 22nd. Those concerns included a package of severance together with a new contract.

"The Sports Council told us exactly how much to offer him, the salary and bonus structure. The concerns around the bonus structure of the IABA were that we did not want a bonus to be paid to one coach and not to all coaches and we did not want a bonus to paid to coaches and not to boxers.

Crystal outlined that the deal brokered by the Minister was a bonus pool that would be split 50/50 between coaches and boxers. The IABA indicated to Walsh that the new deal would have to eliminate the threat of going to America, which the coach agreed to.

"He said to me 'I am satisfied with the deal'. He looked me in the eye and offered me his hand. We don't know what happened between Friday and Monday."

At this point [on the Friday] the Sports Council and IABA were under the impression that all that was required was sign the exchanged contracts.

"What we received on Monday morning was a letter of resignation in the strongest possible terms.

"He had said it was to do with "non-financial aspects" of the contract. He did not outline what those were.

According to Crystal, when pressed last week, Walsh indicated he didn't know if he was the head coach and leader of the team? It was explained to him that all the coaches reports into him and he reports into chief executive, which allayed his concerns.  All parties believed the contract was a matter of course.

Irish Sports Council chairman Kieran Mulvey indicated that funding may be cut to the IABA as a result of the saga, but Ring insisted this would not be the case.

"That will not happen. I can assure the IABA that won't happen. I will not allow the grassroots of the sport to be effected," he said.

Crystal was unhappy with those "disingenuous" comments.

"The IABA was shocked by the very public attack on it and on Irish boxing, by the Chairman and CEO of Sport Ireland.  An attack, that was totally disingenuous and plainly part of a campaign by a statutory state body to exercise control over the IABA’s High Performance Unit."

Walsh's departure from the IABA led to comments of shock and outrage from star boxers including Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, and Paddy Barnes, who expressed concern that Walsh's departure could now trigger the loss too of his right-hand man, Zaur Antia.

Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Barnes said the departure Walsh leaves a "big gap to fill" while 2012 Olympic boxing captain Darren O'Neill lamented the huge loss to the sport.

"He's a fantastic leader, a top class coach," he said.

"Along with Gary Keegan, he has transformed Irish boxing, has changed the whole culture. We have some great coaches in the system, but what he will be a huge loss."

The Wexford man's decision to take up a post in America means that Ireland parts company with its most successful Olympic coach after eight months of trying to negotiate a new deal failed.

It had earlier been speculated that Walsh had resigned for money reasons, but John Treacy said Walsh showed incredible flexibility around the financial aspects of any future contract.

"He agreed to leave his full-time position and become a contractor. That's a clear indication that Billy Walsh wanted to stay. We wanted to keep him. Money was not an issue. It broke down on the non-financial aspects," said Treacy.

"I'm not sure what they are, but we'll be certainly looking to find out over the coming days," he added.

"To watch Billy Walsh, sitting on the couch and talking about being undermined and humiliated, it is appalling. To have that celebrated man treated in that way is really disappointing," he said.

Declan Whooley