Title joy for Walker

Lisburn boxer Kurt Walker, who trains at Canal Boxing Academy, holds up the Irish Senior Championship cup and belt after winning them in Dublin at the national boxing championships. The awards are the highest it is possible to win in Irish boxing. US1504-551cd  Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Lisburn boxer Kurt Walker, who trains at Canal Boxing Academy, holds up the Irish Senior Championship cup and belt after winning them in Dublin at the national boxing championships. The awards are the highest it is possible to win in Irish boxing. US1504-551cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Lisburn boxer Kurt Walker says he is “still buzzing” after his win at the 2015 National Elite Boxing Championships at the National Stadium, Dublin, last weekend.

Kurt, 19, fought in the 56kg Bantamweight final, to collect his first Irish Senior title, following hot on the heels of his Ulster Senior title win in Belfast before Christmas.

The Canal Boxing Club fighter is the first Lisburn boxer since John Rodgers, some 50 years ago, to win an Irish Senior title and he is now eyeing a bout with St John Bosco’s Michael Conlan, an Olympic bronze medallist at London 2012.

“It feels good,” Walker said of his win over St John Bosco’s Sean Higginson. “I’m still buzzing.

“There were 17 from Lisburn went down on a bus to support me. You would’ve thought there was a lot more, they made some noise. It was brilliant,” the young boxer commented.

With his dream of winning fulfilled, the first thing Walker did was to give his medal to his coach Noel Reynolds.

“I gave my medal to Noel after the fight. He’s helped me since I was nine and bought me my first boxing kit.”

Describing the final bout against Sean Higginson, who Walker overcame in the Ulster Senior final before Christmas, the local boxer said that for once he wasn’t nervous.

“For once I wasn’t even nervous,” he explained. “I don’t know why but I enjoyed it more and it made me box better too.

“I fought him in the Ulster final and had a bad hand in that fight, so I was confident. But I was expecting a different game plan from him, but I think he hit me once.

“I wasn’t expecting to be that good,” he added.

“It’s brilliant and has opened up loads of opportunities.”

One of those opportunities is a potential fight against Michael Conlan.

With his eyes set on a place at the Olympics in Rio next year, Walker knows he will eventually have to take on Conlan.

If Conlan, the current International Boxing Association (AIBA) number 2 at 56kg Bantamweight, is the standard to aim to, having won Gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games, then Walker is definitely the contender to his crown.

“It will be hard to beat Conlan, but it can be done,” he said.

“To qualify for the Olympics you have to qualify for the World Championships and get to the last two. You can also qualify for the European Championships and again finish in the last two.

“It will be very hard and really tight, but to get there you have to be the best of the best, beating the best along the way.

“A bout with Conlan is going to happen at some stage, so it may as well happen soon.”

Walker will be training in Dublin next week and says he is looking to get preparations underway for a clash with Conlan.

“This will push me on,” Walker stated. “I don’t feel any pressure.”

Speaking of his Olympic dream, Walker said: “It would be absolutely brilliant to go to the Olympics. I’ve won the Seniors now, got my first title so that’s one ambition fulfilled.”

He added: “I’d like to thank my coaches and my mum, who’s supported me all the way.”

Congratulating the local teen, Canal Boxing Club coach Jim Russell, said: “It was a great night. Kurt is now number one in Ireland. The club would like to congratulate him. It’s taken 10 years, going from Boy 1 to where he is now. He’s a good lad and he deserves his success.”