There was no way Kurt Walker was going to allow highly-rated Brit Peter McGrail register a third win on the trot against him – so when he suffered a broken thumb in the first round of their EU Championships final he dug deep to produce a performance more than worthy of the gold medal he took home this week.
The man they call the ‘Scouse Lomachenko’ got the better of Walker in the pair’s last two meetings, including in the Commonwealth Games final in Australia as recently as April. As a result, the Team GB fighter went into the EU final in Spain on Saturday as favourite to secure top spot on the podium.
His chances of victory seemed to increase when the talented Walker broke the thumb of his left hand in the first round when they renewed acquaintances in yet another final.
However, the gold hungry Canal BC fighter wasn’t going to allow pain hamper his gold ambitions – or McGrail to win another big fight between the pair.
The slick operator and Tokyo 2020 Olympic hope bit down on the gumshield levelled proceedings in the second round and consulted his skill set to win the third and ultimately claim a first major senior international gold in Valladolid.
“I threw a right hand then a left hook and caught my thumb in the left hook. I knew it was broke straight away. It happened with about a minute to go in the first round .I could feel it bad in the second round but I knew I had to dig deep. I had to dig deep for the last round too maybe the adrenaline took over,” he explained to Irish-Boxing.com before commenting on the revenge element of the win.
“It was brilliant I couldn’t let him beat me three times in a row!”
The win, which proved the 23-year-old has substance as well as style, was Walker’s first major tournament win as a senior.
Having come close in the Commonwealths- where he picked up silver – and having had success at Elite National level and in various underage tournaments, Walker was aware he had top end capabilities.
However, tasting gold has cemented that thought and was reward for the efforts he has put into improving since he has left the underage ranks.
“It feels unreal,” he adds with delight.
“All the years of hard work have finally paid off. I definitely knew I was up there with the best but I have come on leaps and bounds over the past few months. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would make my breakthrough”
Walker, possibly due to his style, always cut a confident figure. No doubt he has faith in abilities as do those at club and High Performance level, but he claims the gold win on Saturday will change him as an athlete, suggesting he will have more confidence and self belief as a result.
He admits it has already made him hungry for more success.
“Yes it definitely does,” he responds when asked if it inspires him to succeed further.
“I’ve been back a few days and I already can’t wait to get back in the ring. I honestly believe this gold will change me as an athlete and bigger and better things are still to come.”
It doesn’t get bigger or better for an amateur than Olympic success and that is the ultimate amateur aim for the Lisburn man.
The Ulster and Irish championships in the new year may not be option for the injured Walker, but his main focus is securing a spot on the plane to Tokyo and he doesn’t think anything will stop him achieving that.
“We don’t really know how bad it is or not,” Walker says with reference to the injury and whether it will rule him out of domestic competition.
“We will just have to see. My main goal is to qualify for the Olympics and I’m 100 percent sure I will do that.”