Kurt Walker hoping to grab opportunity after Michael Conlan's pro switch
KURT WALKER should be used to biding his time by this stage. Forced to live in Michael Conlan’s shadow for much of his senior career, a lesser man might have thrown the head up.
Despite winning the Irish Elites both times he has entered them, and being talked about as one of the emerging talents in the country, Walker knew his place.
Conlan was the undisputed number one bantamweight in the country - in the world. Walker would have to wait, and wait he did. Plugging away, learning his trade, adding to his repertoire. Keep the head down and eventually your time will come.
Having returned to training in Dublin last week, that time is now. And while Conlan will be at the Titanic Building on Friday to discuss his future plans in the pro ranks after inking a major post-Olympics deal with US promotional giants Top Rank, Walker’s career can really start to take off.
“That’s all I’ve been waiting for,” said the Canal BC stylist.
“All last summer, my head was wrecked. I was bored, I went over to the Euros and all, I couldn’t even be bothered [with boxing], but it just comes back naturally.
"You get bored of doing the same thing every day and you want to get back to Dublin again. When you start to see yourself improve it makes it better too. I know now I just need to not mess anything up.”
With the Commonwealth Games in Australia in two years’ time, the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 and World and European Championships in between, Walker hasn’t even entertained the idea of turning his back on the amateur game.
“No way, I’m not mature enough. I don’t think I’ve even started maturing - I still feel like a teenager,” said the 21-year-old.
“I’ll go pro after Tokyo. I’ll be 25 then, that’s the perfect age.”
The plan is to complete a hat-trick of Irish Elite titles at 56kg next February but, beyond that, Walker isn’t sure at what weight he will box in the future.
Irish head coach Zaur Antia wants him to fill the spot vacated by Conlan and remain at bantamweight until Tokyo, but Walker isn’t so sure: “I’ve been speaking to Zaur flat out, he says that’s it, gold medal [in Tokyo] if I stay," he said.
“The plan is to enter the Irish seniors at 56, but I don’t think I’ll be at that weight for much longer to be honest. I’ve been at this weight for four years. You never know, but I think I’m going to grow a wee bit more.
“It feels like I’m getting bigger all the time. It’s annoying me, now that Mick has gone I’m just finding it harder. That’s what makes me want to stay.
“If I weigh in at 56, I’ll win the seniors, I know that. I’ve too much talent for anyone at that weight - I’ve been waiting too long, so it’s not as if I don’t have the hunger.”
Walker hasn’t boxed for Ireland since the European Games in June 2015 but, with Conlan out of the picture, he can expect to feature in the green vest more regularly now.
Having failed to make a major impression when given a chance on the international stage, often as a result of cruel draws, he knows he can’t afford to waste any more opportunities.
Walker said: “I need to win something big.
“I feel like I’m improving, even just being down in Dublin again. Watching people, you pick things up. I would’ve watched everybody on the team and taken something from them all.”
THE Ulster and Irish senior championships - formerly known as the intermediates - are to take place in the next month.
The weigh-in for the Ulster championships will be held this Sunday morning at St Agnes’ (Belfast), Ring ABC (Derry) and Omagh Boys and Girls Boxing Club (Tyrone) from 9-9.30am.
Preliminaries and semi-finals, depending on the number of entries, will be held at the Dockworkers Club in Belfast on Monday, October 31 and Tuesday, November 1 at 8pm, with the finals at the same venue on Friday, November 4.
Meanwhile, the men’s and women’s Irish senior championships will take place at the National Stadium in Dublin on November 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26.
With the intermediates now known as the seniors, the Ulster and Irish Elites - formerly known as the seniors - are slated for early next year. The Ulster championships look set to be take place in early February, with the Irish Elites in late February-March.
IMMACULATA’S Caitlín Fryers is part of an Irish junior squad that flies out to Germany this morning for the Queen’s Cup.
The junior and youth teams will compete against outfits from the host nation, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Finland, Wales, Poland, Sweden, Russia, England, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Kosovo, Norway, France and Slovakia at the tournament in Stralsund.
Boxing begins at the Phoenix Sports Club on Wednesday, with the tournament concluding on Sunday.
Junior squad: 46kg: D Moorehouse (Enniskerry); 48kg: C Fryers (Immaculata); 50kg: MK Nevin (Mullingar Elite); 54kg: M Geraghty (Baldoyle); 57kg: M Nevin (St Brigid’s, Kildare); 60kg: S O’Callaghan (Clann Naofa); 63kg: R Gannon (Connemara); 69kg: Evelyn Igharo (Clann Naofa).
Youths: 48kg: S Sweeney (St Anne’s); 51kg: K Leonard (Curragh); 57kg: K McLoughlin (Drimnagh); 60kg: O Garvey (Dealgan); 64kg: S O’Reilly (Bray); 69kg: J Richards (St Michael’s); 75kg: A Burke (St Mary’s, Dublin).
Team manager: Bernie Harold; Coaches: Jimmy Payne, Antoinette Faye, Noel Burke; Judge: Aideen Floyd.
TEAM IRELAND is gearing up for the European Women's Elite Championships - the final AIBA ranking tournament of the year - in Bulgaria next month.
Boxing begins on November 14 in the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the Irish squad, which has a training camp lined up in Sheffield for early November, will be confirmed shortly.
“The team are training really well, very committed,” said Irish head coach Zaur Antia at the team’s Abbotstown base.
“It is an excellent training camp, excellent facilities. Everyone is getting a lot of work done.”
Athletes will earn, in addition to coveted medals, 500, 400 and 300 World rankings points for gold, silver and bronze at the European Championships, provided there are more than 12 boxers in the weight.
There's a 50 per cent deduction of ranking points if there are seven or fewer boxers in a weight and a 30 per cent deduction if there are eight to 11 boxers.
The Olympics, World and European Championships and Continental Multi Sport Games (i.e. European Games) are the four AIBA ranking tournaments for men and women.