Callum Walsh survives a strong effort from Ismael Villarreal, still unbeaten after the biggest test

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Callum Walsh (L) won a unanimous decision over Ismael Villarreal on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.  He stood up after the fight with promoter Tom Loeffler.  (Lina Baker/360 Promotion)

Callum Walsh (L) won a unanimous decision over Ismael Villarreal on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. He stood up after the fight with promoter Tom Loeffler. (Lina Baker/360 Promotion) ((Lina Baker/360 Promotion))

NEW YORK – The peace around Malcolm Walsh was very big. And the Irish welterweight prospect was heavily scrutinized on Thursday in his bout in front of a sell-out crowd of 3,014 at the Madison Square Garden Theater alongside young veteran Ismael Villarreal.

On one side of the ring sat Larry Holmes, a boxing Hall of Famer who is among the small handful of greatest heavyweights in history. Over on him, announcing on the UFC Fight Pass broadcast, was Holmes’ one-time opponent Gerry Cooney. Behind Cooney sat UFC CEO Dana White, WWE president Nick Khan, former pro wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque and 360 Promotions promoter Tom Loeffler. World lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez was also in the house.

There was a lot of pressure on Walsh to play, which he did in a bout that was, at times, very difficult for him. He was dropped in the 10th and if the round had gone on 30 seconds longer, he might have been in trouble.

It was enough for him to win a tough unanimous decision. The judges scored it 97-92 twice and 96-93 for Walsh. Yahoo Sports had it 96-93 for Walsh.

“He did very well,” Roach told Yahoo Sports. “I thought he won every round and the boy came to fight. He wasn’t just there to get a payday. He was fighting and I thought Calum handled himself to good.”

Villarreal entered the bout with a 13-1 record and nine hits and a reputation as a wily professional with an outstanding chin. He and his team were sure they would win and he fought like that. He was a great challenge, shaking Walsh at times but more often standing toe to toe and eating hard, clean shots delivered by the promising Irish welterweight.

“A big fight between two guys coming up,” White said.[There was] no big fish, little pound s***, no [tomato] cans, without cover plate. Excellent match. That’s why I love Tom’s fights.”

Walsh, who is now 9-0, fought with the moxie of a boy with twice the number of fights. After knocking Villarreal down in one round and headbutting him in the next, Walsh didn’t touch gloves as the referee started the fight, cracking Villarreal with a clean left hand. He was showing that he would not be intimidated or intimidated.

At his best, Walsh was creating angles and blasting Villarreal with clean, direct points, especially his left hand. But his love of the fight got him into trouble from time to time as he traded unnecessarily and ended up being caught by a quick – and often hard – combination from Villarreal.

“I’m very happy,” Walsh said. “I’m 22 years old and I’m fighting real guys. That guy was definitely a real fighter. Yeah, definitely happy with that; really happy.”

He hit the canvas from so much in the 10th, as he grappled and Villarreal landed a five or six punch combination that dropped Walsh to the four. Near the end of the round, Villarreal took several shots to the head that seriously injured Walsh.

But Walsh showed the power he is known for in his career but also showed some boxing skill. The big question is whether he is the world champion in the future. He has the team behind him as well as the corner, but he is still a work in progress.

He looked good, however, and the crowd roared, so that those who were watching him wanted to see him again.

“I wasn’t trying to load up my punches,” Walsh said. “I was trying to use my boxing ability and my speed, and I think I did that.

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