With European Youth silver, World Youth bronze, three consecutive Elite Senior titles, and now European Elite Senior bronze, it would be unfair to describe Kurt Walker as merely the fighter that is ‘filling Mick Conlan’s boots.’
A fighter who has been marked out by many, for many years now, as a big international medal hope, Walker has built himself a platform to work from following a string of sensational performances at the European Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine last month.
The Canal bantamweight claimed bronze in Eastern Europe, losing narrowly, in the ring if not the scorecards, to home favourite Mykola Butsenko in the semis.
Walker was delighted to take home silverware and described how “I knew I could do it, but just going over there are lots of things that can happen, it’s hard with luck and the draw and everything, but I knew I able to and I’m glad I’ve gone and done it”
“Three hard fights to do it, beating the number two in the world [Tayfur Aliyev] and the Italian who beat me in the under-22s [Raffaele Di Serrio]. I’m just delighted that I got it.”
The statement-making Aliyev win certainly boosted Walker who then claimed bronze, and revenge, against Di Serrio.
The Lisburn stylist outlined how “that’s what helped me beat the Italian next, because my confidence was through the roof. I knew I was going to do it to be honest with you. ”
“The way he came in, he came in showboating thinking he was the man, and when the result was being called out he had the hands up – but I knew 100%, I won it 4-1 and was absolutely delighted.”
Walker was defeated in the last four by Ukrainian Butsenko. A fight which seemed that it could have gone either way, Walker was adjudged to have been resoundingly beaten – although he has not let the loss deter him.
Indeed Walker is confident he can match the eventual gold medalist, Peter McGrail of England.
“I could have won gold,” noted the Ulsterman.
“You saw with the Ukrainian, a lot of people said I could have beat him, should have beat him, but it’s hard to get the decision over there.”
“Every judge gave every round against me, and that definitely didn’t happen, but that’s just the way it goes.”
“I fought him [McGrail] three years ago, he beat me on a split. I wasn’t great back then, then sparring here I believe I got the better of him. He’s very good, very good at what he does, but once you know what he does you can beat him.”
A first major international medal, it was an important win in more ways than one for Walker who explained how “that guarantees me funding so I can just train next year and work as a boxer, work towards Tokyo.”
“If I didn’t win that medal I don’t know what I would have done, I wouldn’t have been at the Worlds probably, and there’s no major tournaments on next year.”
“Sometimes it [funding] is in your head, sometimes it’s not, you just have to blink it out and just believe that everything will be alright and it has. That’s the way I was training for the Europeans, just believing that it would work out, and it did.”
“I’m glad I can push on now and improve all next year. I feel confident now going to the worlds, there’s no pressure, there’s no stress.”
“Going there [Kharkiv] there was a lot of stress because I knew I needed to win the medal to qualify for the worlds. Now I can concentrate on my boxing.”
A confident fighter regardless, Walker is feeling better than ever ahead of the tournament at the end of next month in Hamburg, Germany.
The 22 year old stated that “I feel that I can definitely, definitely get a medal and even push on for the gold.”
“I’m ready to go now, I’m starting to mature, my weight’s better than ever, I’m stronger, getting smarter, concentrating on listening to gameplans more.”
“Everybody’s worrying about me now because they don’t like fighting me. I’ll be all over the place and they can’t catch me and I can do that for three rounds every fight. People will have to change their style to fight me from now on, and that’s a good thing.”
“Everyone knows me now. Even in training camps here they were having a nightmare with me because I kept running and running – but I was still punching – they just couldn’t catch me.”
“I know what I need to do now, I know what works and what doesn’t. WHat annoys people and what makes them lose their gameplans.”
“I think I’ve stepped up well. Obviously John Joe Nevin won the [2013 European] gold, then Mick won the [2015 European] gold, and it would have been good if I won the gold but it wasn’t meant to be. At least I got a medal, and I feel like I’m going to start off on my own path here and just keep going.”