Kurt Walker heads to Russia this week looking to cement a legacy as one of Ireland’s greatest ever.
The bantamweight division has arguably been our most successful weight class in recent years, indeed in Joe John Nevin and Michael Conlan it has produced two talents some argue are the best to have worn the green vest.
The division has this year been increased up to 57kg and renamed featherweight but Walker wants to emulate his fellow former bantams and push for status as a great.
Mullingar’s Nevin twice won World Championship bronze in Milan in 2009 and Baku in 2011 while Belfast’s Conlan became the first male Irish amateur to win World Championship gold in Doha in 2015.
The amateur shake up means the Canal BC fighter can’t qualify for the Olympics via the latest installment of the tournament, which gloves off in Russia on September 9.
However, he remains motivated to do well not just in terms of personal pride, but in terms of legacy and indeed laying down a marker for the Olympic qualifiers, which will play out in the spring of next year.
The 24-year-old plans to become the latest Irish boxer to do it on the world stage.
“It would defiantly mean a lot to me [to medal in the Worlds]. I’d like to put my name down with the other bantamweight greats like Michael Conlan, John Joe Nevin and the likes,” he told Irish-Boxing.com before suggesting it could be a great Tokyo gauge.
“There is a lot of talent out there at the moment, plenty of countries from Asia who are always fit and strong and then you have the Americans and Cubans. There is also a few people will also be moving down since 60kg is no longer [an Olympic weight] so it will be interesting to see how good the competition is and how I do.
“I’ll be using these championship to see where I’m at on the world stage, but my main goal is to always show progress if I keep doing that the results will come.”
As stated, the European and World Championships are no longer vehicles to book yourself on the plane to Tokyo. European hosted qualifying tournaments will play out on separate dates early next year and Walker is looking at that as a positive.
“[The Worlds not being a qualifier] didn’t bother me that much to be honest. you always have to look at the positives and the way I see it I’ve more time now to improve and make sure I’m in the best possible condition for the qualifiers in London.”
Having just claimed gold in the European Games the opposition in Russia will certainly be aware of Walker, who is also a European Games bronze, Commonwealth silver and EU gold medal winner.
However, rather than just been a marked fighter the Lisburn operator claims that win has made him a more self assured boxer.
[Winning gold] brought me on a lot mentally. I honestly feel that on my day it would be very hard for anyone in the world to beat me,” he adds before playing down any talk of being one of the gold favourites.
“I’m very confident of my own ability now, but at a World Championships like these it’s not so much about favourites. There could be 60-odd in the weight class so it’s about performing on the day and that’s my main target.”