Kurt Walker stunned England’s European Elite champion, Peter McGrail, to claim the European Union Elite 56kg title in Valladolid, Spain, last night.
The Antrim bantam bounced back from losing the first round, 4-1, to take the second, 3-2, and win the third on all five cards to secure a 3-2 split decision and the gold medal.
Liverpool southpaw McGrail needed medical attention to a cut near his right eye in the first, and appeared to be on his way to victory, after claiming the opening stanza.
But Walker, who lost the Commonwealth final to the Merseysider last April, stuck to his boxing and was on top in the final frame, with McGrail floundering, after absorbing a succession of stiff, right jabs.
Walker sparred with Michael Conlan, whose dad, John Conlan, and Eoin Pluck worked the Ireland corner in Spain, in preparation for the tournament. Galway welter Kieran Molloy won bronze in Valladolid.
“I was a bit shocked with the split decision, as I thought he won every round. He stayed in the pocket and boxed brilliantly. We’re absolutely delighted with the win,” said John Conlan.
Meanwhile, lightweight Kellie Harrington is just one win away from successive World Elite medals, after silencing the home fans at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi, India, yesterday.
But Offaly welter Grainne Walsh admitted she was heartbroken, after losing to Argentina’s Noella Perez in the last 16, in the Indian capital.
Harrington beat India’s Sarita Devi on a 3-2 split decision, but Walsh exited on a 2-3 split. India was aiming for 10 straight wins at the tournament, yesterday. Harrington, a silver medallist at light-welter at the 2016 Worlds, sealed victory after flooring Devi with a left hook in the third round.
The Dubliner faces Canada’s Caroline Veyre tomorrow, with at least bronze up for grabs in a repeat of the 2017 Celtic Box Cup final, which Harrington won in Dungarvan.
“For Kellie to be able to perform the way she did, especially in that atmosphere, was great to witness. She put on a hell of a performance,” said IABA high-performance director and Irish team manager in New Delhi, Bernard Dunne.
“She brought a plan and the performance is what got her through. It can be quite daunting (the home support), but Kellie is an experienced athlete.
“It was a very close fight with Grainne. She gave it her best shot and literally got pipped at the post.”
Walsh, who battled Perez from opening to closing bell, was shattered after the defeat.
“Obviously, I am totally and utterly heartbroken. I left it all in the ring and was confident I had won.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get a rub of Irish luck today,” she said.
“I have worked so, so hard for this competition and feel hard-done-by. It didn’t go as planned out here, but it’s out of my hands. I put on a great performance and it just didn’t go my way.”
Cavan’s Ceire Smith, Belfast’s Michaela Walsh, Dundalk’s Amy Broadhurst and Roscommon’s Aoife O’Rourke are in last-16 action in New Delhi today.