Holidays

Irish Olympic boxing prospect Kurt Walker will forego lads holidays to focus on Tokyo 2020

World championship hopeful Kurt Walker had his Euros fun these past two summers – and in wildly different ways.

The Lisburn boxer spent June of last year in France at Euro 2016, cheering on the Republic and Northern Ireland.

While he didn’t get to see Martin O’Neill’s side play in the flesh, he was there when Michael O’Neill’s men beat the Ukraine and lost to Poland.

“I was going out and having pints, going on holidays, going to the Euros,” said Walker.

“I went over there, I went everywhere, supporting both, but I only got to the Northern Ireland matches, I didn’t get to Paris (to see the Republic).

“I was there and had my fun, so I don’t have to go on a lads’ holiday again – or if I’m going on any, it will be a real chilled out one.

Kurt Walker in red celebrates winning

“It was a big bunch of lads and it was just madness. We didn’t stay in a camper van, we stayed in proper hotels. I don’t know any of the players but it was just good craic.”

It was an Olympic year, of course, but Walker had been behind Michael Conlan in the bantamweight pecking order since before London 2012.

Even if Conlan suffered an injury, Walker would not have gone to Rio as he hadn’t qualified. So he had some fun instead.

“It was difficult, like, but in a way I was able to do what I wanted to do outside of boxing, I was able to have my fun,” the 22-year-old smiled.

“And now I’ve done it, I won’t have to do it! I’ve had a life and got it out of my system, so I won’t have to do it again.

“Last year I actually stopped coming to Dublin. I had been coming down Tuesday to Friday, going out Friday night and Saturday night and doing the same thing every week.

“When I came back from France I was up to 67 and I just said to myself, ‘Right, what am I doing here?’.

“I knew I had to go for it and so I went for the seniors, and then after that I just kept myself to myself, I kept going, and going and going.”

Conlan had kept Walker in the loop that he was intending to turn pro – and warned him to be ready to step up when the time came.

“So this year I’ve behaved and I’ve been ready to go, I’ve been focused,” the three-time national champ said.

That focus paid off in the Ukraine in June when he won bronze at the European Championship before bowing out to tough local Mykola Butsenko by an unaminous decision.

“I knew there was nothing going to happen for me last year,” he said.

“But I knew if there was any time for it to happen for me, it was now. For the next three years I’m going to be fully focused, there’s going to be no holidays for me, no drinking, I’m going to be fully focused (on Tokyo 2020).

“It’s a long time away but it flies in.

“The bronze medal has lifted my spirits. It’s made me mature a lot, I think, and I feel a lot more confident for the world championships. I feel that I can go and do it now. I’ve got the ability, I’ve just got to go and get it done.

“I know it’s hard to get a medal when you think about what draw you could get, but I just believed from day one that I could do it and that I needed to do it for my career, and it worked.

“Everyone knows that the world championships is a lot harder, or it can be a lot harder most of the time when you’re probably not seeded and there’s a good chance you’ll face the number one or two seeds before the medal fights.

“But it can be done. I believe I can do it. I want to get in there and get it done.”

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