Kurt Walker on cloud nine after capturing gold for Ireland in Minsk
KURT Walker hailed the “best moment” in his life yesterday as he secured boxing gold for Ireland after a classy win over former world bronze medallist Mykola Butsenko.
Walker produced a composed performance to comprehensively beat his experienced opponent with a 5-0 unanimous verdict on the judges' cards. The Lisburn fighter’s win capped off a strong Irish boxing campaign with silver medals for Kellie Harrington and Michaela Walsh, plus three bronzes to take the country’s tally to six.
Walker, who had shocked reigning bantamweight champion Peter McGrail in the semi-finals, repeated the feat with a unanimous decision win over Ukraine's Butsenko.
The county Antrim man was on form from the off, landing some hard, clean punches from early on and managing to keep his composure in the face of some pressure from the Ukrainian. He continued to dominate though as the rounds ticked on, and stormed home to an unforgettable unanimous decision.
Having been clearly beaten by Butsenko in the European Championships two years ago, Walker saw the weekend victory as a vindication of his personal development.
"It just shows how much I've grown as a boxer and as a man in the last two years,” he said.
"It's absolutely unbelievable. I actually can't describe how good I feel. The game plan, everything was perfect. I want to thank the coaches, the backroom staff, everyone for it.
"It's the best moment in my life, 100 per cent, by a mile," he added.
"He [Butsenko] was very tough, he's been about. This was his third European final, so he’s very experienced and he kept coming and coming, so I’m just glad I was able to fight through it.”
Earlier, light -60kg finalist Kellie Harrington was forced to withdraw from her fight due to injury. Harrington sustained a hand injury in the semi-final bout with Agnes Alexiusson from Sweden and was subsequently deemed unfit to box.
Every attempt was made by the medical staff to manage the injury to her right thumb to give the Dubliner an opportunity to compete, but the decision was later made that she would be withdrawn.
Despite receiving a silver medal, Harrington was understandably gutted: "I'm disappointed to not be competing, but I understand that there’s a bigger picture to be taken into account,” she said.
"It would be too much of a risk to go in there and have another setback. I totally respect the advice of the medical staff and the decision of the performance director.
"I’m looking forward to getting home, recovering and getting back at it as soon as possible. We came out here having had a fantastic training camp and were excited about testing ourselves against the best in Europe blocks, and we did that.
"It’s been a fantastic competition for the Irish boxing team and I’m going to continue to trust the team that’s supporting me," Harrington added.
On Saturday, Belfast boxer Michaela Walsh was beaten on points by Sanimira Petrova of Bulgaria in the women's featherweight final. The 26-year-old had to settle for a silver medal after a 4-1 split decision loss to the third seed in Belarus.