Such is the nature of the Olympics, and the depth of talent at our disposal on this island, that there were plenty of Irish boxers sitting at home in August knowing that they had more than enough skill to compete Rio.
For Kurt Walker it was especially tough. The talented Antrim man, despite two consecutive National Elite titles, has been in the shadow of a certain Mick Conlan for the past few years, and admits to temporarily losing his hunger for the fight game.
Walker’s disillusionment was short-lived however and, with 2015 World Amateur Champion Conlan moving to America to turn professional, he feels that he is now the top dog in the bantamweight division.
The Canal BC man was at the Top Rank press conference at the Titanic Centre yesterday in Belfast to see his old team-mate off into the pros, and spoke to Irish-Boxing.com about his own plans.
Walker described how “I knew my time was going to come, but this Summer was the hardest because everyone was so busy and there was no tournaments for me.”
“I went on holiday, I got heavy, I just kept going out – but then I got the hunger back and I just want to train hard.”
Explaining what reinvigorated him, the 21 year admits there was no big epiphany, and was rather “just seeing things, watching people, seeing Mick turn pro and having everything open up for me again.”
Next up for Walker is the National Elites in February where he will face competition from the likes of Myles Casey (whom he defeated in the final of the last championships), and from the conveyor belt of young talent that includes Belfast slickster James McGivern and Monaghan banger Terry McEntee.
Walker is supremely confident going into the new Olympic cycle that includes Europeans in Germany and Worlds in Russia next year, as well as the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018. He stated that “I definitely think that I’m the man to beat, there’s only young kids coming up.”
“I’ve waited too long for me to be beat, so I’m not not getting beat. That’s a fact.”
It’s a big year, it’s a big two years actually, and then after them two years I might move up and do 60kg for Tokyo. I might stay at 56kg I just need to see what happens.”