Darren’s Reflections on Michaela Walsh v Azerbaijan

2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships - Quarter Finals - Wednesday

As I relax in my room contemplating tomorrows clash of the giants, Taylor v Ochigava, I felt it a good time to reflect on today and begin with our other lady in action today.

Michaela Walsh, our first to compete yesterday, was unlucky to come up short against a very skilled and awkward Azerbaijani opponent. From the start it was a somewhat cagey fight with both boxers deserving and earning each other’s respect. I felt Michaela got the better of her opponent in the opening round landing the cleaner punches and just about shading the round.

I hoped Michaela’s possible greater success rate would entice the elusive Azerbaijani to negate her counterpunching style marginally and offer Michaela a greater chance to create and punish her opponent with increased scoring chances. However, with credit to her opponent, she stuck to her plan and took some crucial learnings from round one landing some crucial shots in the second round utilising her southpaw’s straight backhand left. After the second, I had it one round each.

As with rounds one and two, three proved to a very tight round with little between the pair. Michaela tried up to ante a degree and get off some clean backhands straight to the midriff while her opponent astutely waited for her to lunge or err before countering. This was a very hard round to call as both boxers landing scoring punches, Walsh to the body, her opponent to Walsh’s head.

The last proved equally as daunting to score with more assertiveness from Walsh and more shrewd calculated movement and countering from her opponent. Michaela again up the ante in the final quarter and pressured her opponent, which at times left her open to be countered with the aforementioned straight backhand. Michaela did manage to put the Azerbaijani boxer on the canvas in the closing frame but it was deemed a slip and no advantage was gained. The fight was called in favour of Azerbaijan on a 2:1 majority.

Michaela had pursued her opponent for four rounds, landed most of her clean punches in the first and continued to tag on shots to the body throughout, while her opponent spent most of the fight looking for clean head shots by means of her southpaw’s straight left. Opinions will differ on which is more important in this new scoring system, body or head punches. Combined with Michaela’s attempt to impose herself and carry or dominate the fight, as is a scoring criterion, it is worth considering what is domination. Is domination merely attacking, or is it controlling, or dictating the fight regardless of directional movement? If the first, Michaela could argue she spent most of the fight on the offensive, if the latter, the Azerbaijani boxer can claim to have dictated by encouraging Michaela to up the ante allowing her to settle into a counterpunchers fight.

Whatever your view, I feel Michaela can hold her head high, she put in a tremendous effort against a world class opponent and she will no doubt come away stronger and better. She has had an incredible year, rising to a Commonwealth final and top 16 in the World over one season. From experience, I know the pain felt in defeat when you desire something so badly, but I also know, that pain is the reason you push yourself further in hope you’ll never succumb to that feeling again.