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Kurt Walker: ‘It was unbelievable. It was my major breakthrough’

Kurt Walker
Action Images/REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Irish bantamweight Kurt Walker is delighted with his triumph at Minsk 2019

How pleased were you to win gold at the European Games?

I was over the moon. I was buzzing. It’s worn off a bit now but it was a good feeling.

It was unbelievable just because it was my major breakthrough. Even though I had been winning medals, to be on top of the podium for the first time, at such an important time as well.

I fought different style [in Minsk]. The first one was a wee small tough one, then the second fight was a tough one who was my height, the third was a tactical fight and the fourth was the final.

It was hard but adapting quickly, maybe that’s why I did so well.

What was Mykola Butsenko like in the final?

He beat me two years ago in the semi-finals [of the European championships]. That was when I was just coming on to the scene. Now I’ve had two years building up to it. My tactics were spot on. I didn’t let him bully me. I was sitting down on my punches more, meeting him in the middle, just being smart.

He’s been around a few years. That was his third [European] final he’s been in.

Now you and Peter McGrail have a rivalry, you’ve fought each other a few times. What the bout like this time?

It was very close. I just felt like I was landing the bigger shots… We’ve fought each other that many times we know what to expect. It’s always going to be a hard fight no matter what.

Thankfully it’s worked out for me the last few times but every fight it’s going to be different.

He’s definitely up there [with the best]. It’s hard because he’s very technically good. But then you’ll fight someone from Uzbekistan who are animals. You can maybe hit them easier but they’ll still come on very strong. It just depends what you’re up against.

It’s hard because anyone can come and take over.

When did you first get on to the Ireland squad?

I was training with the Olympians when they were going to London [2012], when I was 16.

I was number two for while, until I was 22 years old. I was number one then. But it was great. I had all them years to help me. I wouldn’t have been ready anyway for a while.

How did training and sparring with Michael Conlan help you?

It was good for me. The winning mentality as well. You were always seeing him come back with gold all the time. You just think when I go I need to be doing well as well.

And your target is Tokyo 2020?

100%. The way I’m performing now, I can’t see no reason why not… There’s always people chasing you though.

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