"We consider Callum Walsh as the fastest-rising star in boxing," boxing promoter Tom Loeffler told ProBox TV from the Wildcard Boxing Club in Hollywood, in the build-up to the 22-year-old fighter's return to the ring November 9 at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York.
The Wildcard is an LA icon, and has been a home away from home for some of the toughest athletes in the modern era including Manny Pacquiao, a former eight-weight world champ who Loeffler likens Walsh to as they're both aggressive-minded southpaws.
As you walk up the stairs to the gym, before you get to the national flags of the fighters who have trained there, one fight poster stands out — it depicts Walsh's next fight, against Ismael Villarreal, and it's on the front door of the building.
"It’s a good feeling seeing my picture up on the walls in the gym, with so much history upstairs," Callum Walsh said with a smile. "Maybe there’ll be Irish fighters coming to this gym in the future because of me."
Walsh's future could be one packed with success. Though Walsh remains in the prospect phase of his fledgling career, Loeffler is matching his boxeer in what he calls stern tests.
On Thursday, Walsh fights a more experienced opponent Villarreal who has competed on Showtime, on ProBox TV, and has a strong record of 13-1-0 (9 KOs).
It is the kind of matchmaking that has continued to captivate the attention of Dana White, who has fully gotten behind Walsh based off numerous conversations we've had with the UFC boss in recent months.
UFC boss Dana White has lent his support to Callum Walsh
"I'll be there for [Walsh's] fight," White told ProBox TV at the UFC Apex recently. "This kid has been fighting real guys. Normally, they give you a bunch of stiffs in boxing, and this kid is doing it the right way.
"I think the UFC has been the model to prove that when you fight legit fights all the way up, nobody questions you when you become the champion," he said. "It's tough for people not to look at you as the man, and the experience you get in those type of fights."
None of this is lost on Loeffler, who White called boxing's best matchmaker.
After receiving the stamp of approval from revered boxing coach Freddie Roach, Loeffler signed Walsh to a promotional contract in 2021 and took him to see White in Las Vegas. "Dana automatically saw similarities with Conor McGregor," Loeffler told us.
Walsh has long told us that he is determined to become "the next star from Ireland" and take over from McGregor and Katie Taylor. "It will be hard to do more than them, but I'll try my best. I want to be the face of Irish fighting."
Though Walsh left Cork to live and train in Los Angeles three years ago, he wants to compete across the U.S., and even take a fight in Ireland.
"I need to get back home," he said, after admitting that the only thing he misses about life in America is having left his friends and family. "I want to fight in Cork, ideally at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh — to sell that out, 50,000 seater, would be incredible."
The making of an international superstar
For Loeffler, Walsh is already well on his way. "Callum has all the makings of an international superstar," said Loeffler.
"That was my plan from the start with Triple G as he didn’t care who he fought, or where he fought. He sold out Madison Square Garden, broke the record at StubHub, fought at The Forum, T-Mobile Arena, fought at the O2 Arena, and in Japan.
"I think with Callum we can do something similar, take part in bi-Coastal events. He trains here and fights in LA, but fights twice a year in the East Coast so the East Coast writers and fans get the exposure. Then it won’t be long before we fight Callum in Europe.
"Callum has the complete package — he's charismatic, has that Irish confidence, and he's great on social media, The fans love him, and they want to see exciting fights," said Loeffler.
In many ways, Walsh is an ideal athlete to cross-market to the UFC audience. Because of McGregor, Walsh sounds like a familiar fighter. And, crucially according to Loeffler, the boxing style needs to be one to retain the interest of UFC's fans who are used to jump spinning back kicks, brutal ground-and-pound, and a wide variety of chokeholds.
"They want to see action and knockouts," Loeffler told us. Walsh, to date, has delivered that in abundance.
And though Loeffler has represented Gennadiy Golovkin, Vitali Klitschko, and Wladimir Klitschko before, he believes there is something unique about the way Walsh hunts heads in the ring.
"Triple G [Golovkin] had devastating knockout power, a great chin, and he'd normally start out by taking one or two rounds before getting into it in the third. Callum gets into it straight away and wants a first-round finish."
Walsh added: "I don't want to be there all day. I've got things to do."
So far, Walsh's power has stood up to whoever Loeffler has thrown at him but it is unclear, because of that tough matchmaking, for how long that will continue.
"If you look at UFC matchmaking and UFC philosophy," Loeffler said, "You have a great fight in the UFC, you might lose, but two months later you are in another great fight. It’s not like in boxing where you lose and sit out for a year and have to rebuild your career. That’s what we want to bring to boxing, bring that aura back for great TV fights and not get frozen out just because you might lose one of them."
The confident swagger of Walsh suggests he's not expecting to lose any time soon, though.
He competes in the talent-rich super welterweight division — a weight class home to Jermell Charlo, Tim Tszyu, Sebastian Fundora, and will soon likely see Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. compete there, too.
"I'll beat them all," he said. "You name them. I’m the best fighter in the world but the world doesn’t know it yet. I’ll fight them all. I'm ready."