Boxing

Irish champion Kurt Walker ruled out of Ulster Elites with broken thumb

Kurt Walker is still hopeful of being at next April's Commonwealth Games, despite being ruled out of the Ulster Elite Championships. Picture by Hugh Russell

REIGNING Irish bantamweight champion Kurt Walker has been ruled out of the upcoming Ulster Elite Championships – although he is still confident of competing at next April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Walker sustained a broken thumb while sparring fellow European medallist Brendan Irvine, and will be in a cast for the next three weeks.

The weigh-in for the Ulster Elites is on Sunday, with boxing getting under way at the Dockers Club on Wednesday.

Since returning from the World Championships in August the 20-year-old has been fully focused on the championships, with the prospect of boxing at the Ulster Hall on November 24 finals night a huge incentive.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said.

“It happened in the first round of sparring, the way I threw the shot it just landed short and I caught my thumb on the side of his head. I went on for about another 20 seconds but then I had to stop.

“I thought it was maybe ligament damage but when I went to the hospital they told me it was broken.

“It’s never happened to me before – I’ve never been injured, ever. I’d been doing loads of sparring with Brendy, Conor Quinn, Caoimhin Ferguson. I was supposed to spar James McGivern the night after I got the injury too. I was flying.

“I had a break after the Worlds and this has given me something to focus on. I was buzzing to get fighting at the Ulster Hall as well because I haven’t boxed in Belfast for ages, but what can you do?”

It’s an unfortunate setback but, in terms of his Commonwealth Games ambitions, all hope is not lost.

The Ulster Elites will play a major part in the selection policy for the Gold Coast, but it is likely Walker – given his elite status – will be offered a box-off at the very least.

Along with Irvine, Sean McComb and Steven Donnelly - the Rio Olympian is expected to enter at a new weight of 75kg - Walker is one of the most experienced boxers in Ulster when it comes to international experience.

And this is something Ulster High Performance coach John Conlan is sure to take into consideration when he selects his team.

“To be honest, at my weight, there shouldn’t even be a box-off because I’m the only one who has boxed at international level,” said the Canal BC counter-puncher.

“I’d be surprised if there was one but if there is, I’ll be ready. We’ll see what happens.”

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