HEARTBREAK – Kurt Walker edged out on narrowest of split-decisions in Olympic bronze medal bout

Kurt Walker’s Olympics are over and the Lisburn featherweight will be coming home empty-handed after an agonising defeat in Tokyo this morning.

The European champion put in an heroic performance but lost the tightest of 3-2 split-decisions to American Duke Ragan.

A slow start left Walker with a mountain to climb but he almost did just that, changing tactics and winning both the second and third rounds on the cards but the unanimous nature of the first round in Ragan’s favour ensured the Cincinnati puncher got the nod.

Ireland’s day out East got off to the worst possible with Aidan Walsh having to withdraw from his welterweight semi-final with Pat McCormack due to the freak ankle injury picked up in the aftermath of his bronze medal win over Mauritian Merven Clair. Things, unfortunately, did not get much better in the Kokugikan Arena, with Walker being denied in the cruellest of fashions.

While his build-up to Tokyo had been far from desirable, the Canal talent had been on fire – first defeating Spaniard Jose Quiles before shocking world champion and gold medal favourite Mirazizbek Mirzakhlailov in a medal-worthy Last 16 bout.

A 2017 World silver medallist Ragan also had a rather bizarre path to this point. The Ohio fighter turned pro with Top Rank following the postponement of the Games last year, quickly racking up a 4(1)-0 record. However, when the Americas qualifier in Buenos Aires was cancelled and the Boxing Task Force fell back on their rankings to decide the region’s representatives, Ragan got a ticket to Tokyo. Handed a tough draw like Walker, the American overcame top French fighter Samuel Kistohurry on a tight split decision before defeating Kazakh Serik Termizhanov.

Cagey to start, as expeted, Ragan offered more aggression as Walker struggled to find his range – and the powerful American took the round on all five cards.

Increasing his output, Walker performed better in a war of a second round but the cuts he suffered earlier in the tournament required attention after opening up. WIth things clicking, Walker had Ragan on the backfoot and this swung the stanza for three judges leaving it all to fight for in the final round.

Medal on the line, it was furious in the third, with both loading up. Walker appeared the fresher fighter, with plenty of tying up from Ragan, but things were messy and clean shots were hard to come by.

A fantastic final two rounds from Walker, it was sadly not enough. Despite winning the final round 4-1 on the cards, the combination of judges meant that the Ulsterman came out the wrong side of a 3-2 split decision.

Ireland now has one boxer remaining – Dublin lightweight Kellie Harrington, who will take to the ring versus Algerian Imane Khelif looking to guarantee at least a bronze on Tuesday morning at 4:30am.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie