Kurt Walker plots underdog day after Brendan Irvine and Michaela Walsh bow out in Tokyo
BRENDAN Irvine threw everything he had at Filipino Carlo Paalam at Tokyo's Kokugikan Arena yesterday but the St Paul's flyweight finished just short in his round of 32 contest and exited the Olympic Games on the same day that featherweight Michaela Walsh bowed out against a familiar foe; the equally impressive Irma Testa of Italy.
Irvine landed some stinging shots over the three rounds but found Paalam - strong, aggressive and quick on his feet – hard to pin down and the stocky, all-action Filipino put together some eye-catching combinations to take a 4-1 win on the scorecards.
“I thought it was very, very close,” said Irvine afterwards.
“I can't knock the decision but I did think I did enough to get it. It wasn't my day but I gave it everything I had. I literally couldn't have done anything else – it's been an absolute roller-coaster to get here so that's why I'm emotional. Carrying my country's flag with both pride and honour was unbelievable but I'm here now to try and support the rest of the team and pick them up if they're down so I'll carry on doing that.”
He added: “I'm absolutely devastated to not win. I've put so much in these past three years to get here.
“So you can understand why it's a bit emotional. But I'm immensely proud to be representing my country and to be captain of the boxing team. I just have to pick myself and support the rest of the team now.”
Irvine's Olympic journey has been plagued with injury, and despite 18 months out of the ring, in his first fight back in March 2019, he qualified for his second Olympic Games.
“If you had asked me three years ago if would I have been at the Games I would have told you ‘no',” he said.
“It's an achievement to get here, but when you're here, you obviously want more, and to get a medal - but it wasn't meant to be. We've a superb team here, incredible athletes, and to be an Olympian is something special, so you can imagine the talent in each and every athlete here.”
Meanwhile, in the Women's Featherweight round of 16 clash, battling Michaela Walsh was defeated by long-time foe Testa, losing out by unanimous decision.
A 3-2 lead in the first round from Walsh saw her put Testa on the back foot throughout, weaving and ducking away from Testa's left jab and frustrating the Italian throughout to take an edge going into the second. Testa bounced back impressively though and used her height and physical presence to edge ahead going into the last round.
Walsh needed to win the final round to keep her Olympic dream alive but the momentum was with Testa and despite some eye-catching work from the Belfast women the judges ruled in favour of the Italian by unanimous decision.
“I felt the first round I won clear, I think it was 3-2 up, she came on in the second round and won in the third round,” said a disappointed Walsh afterwards.
“She had her moments and I had mine. But unfortunately, she got the nod, and I wish her all the best, and I hope she can go all the way.
“I felt the coaches had a perfect game plan coming into this. Obviously I knew her very well, and the things to be working in the first round. It's just sometimes you don't know what the judges are looking for.
“Coming into the fight I was feeling very confident. She's very tall at the weight and very rangy, with very quick jabs. Going in, I was to keep my distance and make her miss a lot, and I was countering it, and going back into the body.
“It was working for me in the first round. She came out in the second and caught me with a good few jabs. I felt I lost the second, and in the third I felt she had her moments and I had mine.
“When you hear unanimous decision it's a bit disheartening, but I was very happy with the game plan and what the coaches here were telling me to do. It was her day today.”
KURT WALKER is determined to take the scalp of the top seed when he takes on Uzbekistan's Mirzakhalilov Mirazizbek in the men's featherweight round of 16 tomorrow morning (4.36am).
Mirazizbek is a professional boxer who already has a win in the paid ranks and was amateur World Champion in 2019. However, after a composed performance on his Olympic Games debut against Spain's Joe Quiles Brotons on Saturday morning, Lisburn native Walker is brimming with confidence.
“He has two arms and two legs like myself, it doesn't bother me,” said Walker.
“If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I have won a fight in the Olympics more than I thought I would do a year ago so I'm happy and I will keep going.”