Sport

Kurt Walker and Fearghus Quinn scheduled for title fights as Stephen Ward announces ring return

Conor Quinn vows to take care of business before Orlando trip to cheer on Pody McCrory

Kurt Walker's first year as a professional went to plan
Kurt Walker will challenge England’s James Beech junior for the WBA Continental featherweight title on March 30

KURT Walker will challenge England’s James Beech junior for the WBA Continental featherweight title on March 30.

The Ulster Hall is the preferred, but unconfirmed, venue for the rumble and the popular Bedford Street venue was the scene when Walker progressed to 10-0 with a typically slick, technical exhibition against Darwing Martinez on January 27.

He now steps up as the headline act against Beech (16-5) who challenged for the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles last year.

“I wanted a fight like this sooner but I’m glad I’ve had to wait until now because I’ve been able to learn,” said Walker.

“From being an amateur for so long, I feel as if every (professional) fight I’m getting better and I’m changing and adapting to the pro game.”

As an amateur Walker was able to box and move but the professional game demands that he plants his feet at times and it has taken time for him to adapt to that style.

“I’m comfortable moving but sometimes that can look bad because people think I’m moving too much and it does tire you out,” he explained.

“When I was an amateur, there was no planting of the feet, it was just get your shots off and move. I know that if things get rough and can do that but just moving, just doing one thing, isn’t going to win me a world title. You have to mix it up and I feel like I’m doing other bits better in every fight which is good.

“It’s about maturing your body as well with all the training you do and I think that’s starting to show now. I feel comfortable (fighting) on the inside as well.”

Walker wants to break into the British title scene and winning this fight will allow him to take a meaningful step in that direction. He says going in against an opponent who is coming to Belfast determined to win will bring the best out in him.

“I wouldn’t say I’m up against it – in my head I’m the favourite – but when I’m up against a guy who’s been training for seven weeks and is there win, that’s when I’ll be at my best,” he explained.

“I’m confident in my skillset but I know Beech is good, he’s only been beaten by good fighters and they only got to him late in the fights. He’s shown that he can compete and last so it’s a good fight for me.

“In professional boxing a lot of it is about how you get through the rounds and how you finish but if you put the work in you get the rewards. I’ll know where I’m at after this fight, I’ll know how much more I need to do to get to the level I want.

“Hopefully once I get through this fight it’ll open up plenty of doors for me going into the summer.”

South Armagh native Fearghus Quinn also won on Saturday night
South Armagh native Fearghus Quinn also won on Saturday night Fearghus Quinn will trade leather with Glasgow’s Aston Brown for the BBBofC Celtic title

Chief support will be South Armagh middleweight Fearghus Quinn, another fighter who has served a thorough apprentice as an undercard fighter. The all-action, Gerry Storey trained Belleeks native will trade leather with Glasgow’s Aston Brown for the BBBofC Celtic title.

Four wins (including his debut in the USA) last year took Quinn to 9-0 as a professional. He finished the year off with a points win against teak-tough Angel Emilov who also took Brown (5-0) the distance when the Scot returned from four and-a-half years’ out of the ring last April.

Also scheduled for the card is the comeback of Stephen Ward. The Belfast cruiserweight hasn’t boxed since late 2021 when he lost a cruiserweight title fight in Kazakhstan but returns determined to carve out a career swansong.

Meanwhile, Owen O’Neill also returns to action and former Armagh GAA star James Freeman, Glen Byrne and JP O’Meara are all scheduled to appear on the card.

Conor Quinn fights for the Celtic and Commonwealth 'Silver' belts on October 14
Conor Quinn headlines the show at the Europa Hotel on Saturday night

CONOR Quinn will travel to Orlando next week to cheer on stablemate Pody McCrory in his super-middleweight title fight against Edgar Berlanga but the unbeaten flyweight has to attend to some business of his own before he checks in for his flight.

Quinn hosts experienced Tanzania champion Jemsi Kibazange (20-7-3) at the Europa Hotel over 10 scheduled rounds and the Dee Walsh-trained stylist is expecting a sustained challenge from his African opponent.

“He’s had 30 fights and he has a lot of knockouts,” said ‘The Magnificent’.

“I’m expecting him to be dangerous and from what I’ve seen of him he has quite an elusive style and when he lands he can do a bit of damage. It’s another good step for me along the way and I’m looking forward to a different sort of test because recently I’ve been boxing guys from the UK and Europe.

“Kibazange will bring something different, he’ll have a different style to what I’m used to so I’m looking forward to it. I know he will come and have a go and realistically there’s no pressure on him whatsoever so I’m sure he will be giving me everything he’s got.

“Training has been brilliant. The fights are starting to step up so you have to make adjustments in your own style. I’m up to 10 rounds and hopefully 12 soon so you have to work on distance control, pacing yourself and sitting down on the shots a wee bit more. Kibazange is going to be a great opponent to go in and show that against because he’s had plenty of 10 rounders himself.”

Saturday card (tickets available on the door or from www.eventbrite.com):

Flyweight: Conor Quinn (8-0-1) v Jemsi Kibazange (20-7-3)

Featherweight: Colm Murphy v Julias Thomas Kisarawe (34-11-1)

Featherweight: Connor Kerr (2-0) v Jake Pollard (1-59)

Super-lightweight: David Ryan (4-0) v Jake Smith (1-13-2)