Boxing

Kurt Walker and Brendan Irvine just come up short in search for Holy Grail

Kurt Walker and Peter McGrail show off their medals after Saturday's bantamweight final. Pictures by PA

THEY don’t call Peter McGrail ‘the Scouse Lomachenko’ for nothing, and the 21-year-old lived up to his billing with a classy performance to just edge out Lisburn’s Kurt Walker in the bantamweight final.

Walker came into the decider after posting impressive wins over Australia’s Jack Bowen, Lesotho’s Moroke Mokhotho and Canada’s Eric Basran, but European gold medallist McGrail was always going to be his toughest test by far.

The 22-year-old boxed the right fight, staying patient on the back foot and attempting quick, accurate raids before getting out of the way against an opponent who always looks to be within striking distance.

The final two rounds were close after McGrail had taken the first, with Walker edging the third but it wasn’t enough as he slipped to a split decision defeat.

“He’s very tricky, it took me a while to get my rhythm but I gave it my all,” said the Canal counter-puncher.

“I can definitely be better but it’s on the day and he was the better guy on the day. He catches you because he rolls and he’s very tricky, hard to work out.

“It was a good fight, I enjoyed every minute of it, every minute of these Games. I’m happy to get to the final, just a bit gutted not to win it.

“It means a lot [to win silver] but gold means more. I’ll take it on the chin and I’ll get better.”

His club coach, Jim Russell, said everybody associated with Canal, and Lisburn, was “really, really proud” of Walker’s endeavours Down Under.

“It was all down to a punch here or a punch there – it was very close and cagey,” said Russell.

“Before the competition we were talking about him and we knew he was the danger. He won gold at the Europeans and Kurt got bronze so that’s the form, but he did really well.

“At that level you’re talking about inches, but take McGrail out of it and Kurt’s the number in England or Ireland.

“Kurt probably could have gone to other clubs in the past but he stayed with us, he’s very loyal wee lad, and he’s great with the kids here too. Everybody here, the whole town, was rooting for him and we’re really proud of how he did.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of him.”

Saturday's flyweight final between Brendan Irvine and Gaurav Solanki was a close affair, with the Indian getting the nod on a split decision

In the flyweight final, meanwhile, Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine lost out on a split decision to India’s Gaurav Solanki after another close, tactical battle.

‘Wee Rooster’ had edged home in his previous two fights against Rajab Mahommed and Scotland’s Reece McFadden, getting the nod on split decisions, but on Saturday the judges went against him.

Typically, Irvine was slow to get out of the blocks but the final two rounds were very evenly contested, and the 22-year-old was understandably disappointed not to be bringing home a gold medal.

He said: “I’m absolutely gutted to be beaten on a split decision in the final.

“You’d rather be knocked out completely than beat on a split decision but what can you do? That’s boxing at the end of the day. I gave it my all and that’s all anyone can ask for.

“Maybe the first round I was a bit slow but the second and third round I thought I dominated and so did my coaches, we were very confident of getting the decision.

“I’m always very focused, anything I do I put 100 per cent into it and if I come away short, I come away short. To come here and get a silver medal is still a great achievement, there’s a lot of people would give their right arm to be here.

“I’m just very thankful to be here.”

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