Kurt Walker won’t come home from Tokyo with an Olympic medal but does return to Ireland having won the respect of the nation.
The Lisburn stylist has been one of Ireland’s most consistent sports stars in recent years and was deemed one of the best featherweight amateur boxers in the world going into 2020.
Yet, the decorated operator went into the Olympic’s without the profile his medals, performances or talent deserved.
Walker believes he changed that with his displays in the Kokugikan Arena in Japan over the last week – and upon exciting the featherweight tournament took solace from the fact a wider audience got to see what he could do.
The Canal BC talent first defeated Spaniard Jose Quiles, a European medal winner, before shocking world champion and gold medal favourite Mirazizbek Mirzakhlailov in a medal-worthy Last 16 bout.
Fighting for a medal Walker put in a heroic performance but lost the tightest of 3-2 split decision to American Duke Ragan. Walker was upset after falling at the medal hurdle but remained proud of his Olympic displays and happy he got to share his talent on the biggest stage.
“It was a tough fight, I pushed on a little bit too late, but I’m proud of myself”, Walker told RTÉ post-fight. “He just had a great first round, and that was it.
“It’s mad, I was just so close. I was trying to find my distance and so was he, he was just that bit sharper in the first and it won him the fight.
“I showed everyone back home how good I am. They only get to see us two months out of every four years. A lot more people will know my name after these Olympics.
“I’m only 26, I have another eight years of boxing left in me at least. And I’m only getting better, so we’ll see what’s next.”
Ultimately Walker failed to recover from a first-round that went the way of the Billy Walsh guided American on Sunday morning. Something he reflected on soon after: “He just let me go. I knew he was super-fast so I wanted to see how much of his jab would get through but it didn’t. I knew I would be able to push the second and third, but I was just a bit too late.
“I haven’t watched it back but I thought I was better in the second and third but it was so close. He took the first, I know he took the first. I thought the second could have been clear to me, but I don’t know. I haven’t watched it back. I might have been taking shots that I can’t remember.
“I believe on my day I’m better, just with a little bit of a better start. I had two great starts in my first two fights and I’m normally a slow starter. So I’ve been doing well but he was just the better person in the first.