Sunday 23 October 2016

Zaur Antia has penned a heartwarming tribute to his friend and colleague Billy Walsh

Sean McGoldrick

Published 19/10/2015 | 21:54

Zaur Antia, left, Billy Walsh
Zaur Antia, left, Billy Walsh

Billy Walsh's right hand man in the High Performance Unit, Georgian native Zaur Antia, has paid tribute to the Head Coach who shocked the sporting world today when he resigned after failing to agree the terms of a new contract with the IABA.

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Antia has played a pivotal role in the extraordinary success story of Irish boxers since arrived to join the High Performance Unit at its inception in 2003. With the departure of Walsh to take up a position with the USA women's boxing squad, Zaur will assume a pivotal role in the preparation of the Irish boxers ahead of next year's Olympics.

Of course, the unspoken fear in Irish boxing circles is that Zaur may ultimately join his friend in Colorado, where the US women's team is based.

The pair were interviewed for the post of Head Coach of the yet to be established High Performance Unit in the spring of 2003. They later had their first drink together in the Ringside club adjacent to the national stadium.

Ultimately Billy was offered the position of head office. Zaur – who could only speak six words of English at the time – took up the position of Head Technical coach. The pair together with the first head of the HPU Gary Keegan transformed the fortunes of Irish boxing in the last 13 years.

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Writing on his Facebook page Zaur Antia paid the following tribute to his colleague:

“13 years is not 13 days. In high performance sport 13 years can be many life times.

"13 years we worked together, in this work and this time we have created history and created friendship. We achieved so much together. We worked so closely together and worked very hard with huge charisma, Spirit and heart and this created a very special team spirit.

"Now today when I read your statement, its very difficult to believe your resigning Billy. But this is fate of life, of future and sometimes in order to grow we must change, even if that change is painful. I am certain that anywhere you go, you will bring same incredible achievements to that country.

"What you have given us and what you leave here is a big and strong team which will continue your mission and every achievement here, will belong to your name as a team member and leader.

"You will forever be part of the heart and soul of our team and your passion will be present in every step we take. Your fearless and unconquerable spirit.”

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