Grounded Callum Walsh Admits There’s A Target On His Back Ahead Of Fight With Yeleussinov

According to Callum Walsh, his second consecutive main event at Madison Square Garden’s Theater this Friday is just another fight. But make no mistake about it, the unbeaten junior middleweight also knows it’s a big deal. 

“I definitely pay attention to it after I fight, not in the buildup,” said Walsh, who faces Dauren Yeleussinov in a 10-rounder for the WBC Continental Americas belt. “I think if you focus too much on where you’re fighting and who’s going to be there and all that stuff, it takes away from the fight. So, in the buildup, it’s just another fight. But after the fight, when I get the win and I look out to the crowd and I see everybody that showed up to see me fight – all my friends, family, my coaches - then I realize what I just did and where I just fought and how much of an accomplishment that is. And the fact that I’m going back there just four months later and fighting again on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, it’s crazy.”

Last year, the County Cork native headlined a St. Patrick’s Day gig in Boston, stopping Wesley Tucker in two rounds. A pair of knockouts over Carson Jones and Juan Jose Velasco followed before he had to dig deep to beat Ismael Villarreal at the MSG Theater in November, rising from a knockdown to win unanimously over 10 rounds. It was the kind of win a prospect needs, where he shows not just how he performs as the hammer, but as the nail, against an opponent who didn’t show up for a payday, but to upset the headliner. 

“I was happy that he showed up to win and to fight,” said Walsh. “And I showed a lot of people that I can tough out a win and can stay there and get the win. But, for myself, no, I didn’t really feel like I was at my best. No excuses, but I felt like I just was about 70 per cent. I knew I had more in the tank, I knew I had more that I could do, and I was just disappointed that I didn’t really get to show my skills fully. That’s what I’m looking forward to for this next fight. I feel like I’m a lot more prepared, a lot more ready mentally and looking to show my skills a bit more.”

There will be nights like that, but it’s how a fighter responds that shows how far he can possibly go. And with respected veterans of the game like Tom Loeffler and Freddie Roach going all-in on the Irishman, there is the feeling that Walsh may have next-level potential. And he’s gotten the attention and opportunities to reflect that. All at 23, which begs the question, how is Callum Walsh remaining Callum Walsh?

“I don’t even know, to be honest,” Walsh chuckles. “I don’t think of myself as anything special. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do. I know I’m here for a reason, and that reason is to fight and to win, and that’s all I'm doing. I’m just fighting and I’m winning. And I’m just enjoying life. I’m not trying to be too good for anyone and I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m just being myself and this is how I really am. I’m just enjoying it.”

Fighters often say things because they know it’s the “right” thing, but when Walsh says that he’s the same kid who came to Hollywood from Ireland a few years back, you believe him, even though it’s hard to believe that he hasn’t let the hype get to him, even a little bit. But again, he’s got good people in his corner, and plus, he admits that having an outsized ego wouldn’t fly back home.

“If I went back home thinking I was too good or thinking I was someone famous, I’d be brought back to reality fairly quick,” he said. “Irish people, they don't take that s**t, really. So I’d never like to see myself like that. I just always want to be the same as I always was.”

Outside the ring, that is. Inside the ropes, Walsh wants to keep moving and keep evolving, something that practically required his move to the States. And while there are times when he misses “The Emerald Isle,” he knows that business requires him living abroad.

“I missed it at the start, but I’ve been here three years now, so this is just what I do right now,” Walsh said. “I’m here, I’m fighting, and this is where my career is and where my life is now. So I don’t really miss it that much. I do sometimes, but not as bad as I used to.”

Three years is a long time, but there is no hint of a California accent on Walsh, yet, and that’s a good thing.

“I couldn’t even go home,” he laughs. “Yeah, I’d have to stay here forever.”

Walsh does have the hallmarks of a star, that much is clear. But you have to remember that he’s only 23 years old and only 9-0 as a pro, so there will be ups, downs and sideways before he starts looking at the Top 20. Yeleussinov should be a good test this week, and should he pass it, Walsh isn’t too particular about what’s next.

“I don’t really care who I fight,” he said. “I’ll fight anybody, it doesn’t really matter. I just trust the team. I don’t pick the fights, they do; they pick my opponent, pick where I fight, and my job is to fight, so I just show up and fight.”

This Friday, it’s Dauren Yeleussinov at Madison Square Garden’s Theater in New York City. Walsh will be there, fighting, and getting his opponent’s best, because these days, beating Callum Walsh could be a career-changer.

The “King” likes it that way.

“If you want to do big things in the sport, you have to be that fella with the target on your back,” said Walsh. “You can't just be just a normal fighter. And the best thing about it is with that target on your back, you know that everybody you beat, you’re beating the best version of them. You are not just beating someone that showed up for a paycheck. You’re beating people that are genuinely trying to beat you and trying to stop you and trying to stop the hype. So yeah, everyone I beat, I know I'm beating the best version of them.”