Irish boxing chiefs will be dusting down the Odessa file to check out Kurt Walker’s semi-final opponent at the European Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Walker and Rio Olympians Brendan Irvine and Joe Ward also won their quarter-finals in Kharkiv yesterday to guarantee Ireland at least three bronze medals from the 42nd edition of the tournament. Irvine scored a unanimous decision over Spain’s Gabriel Escobar in the flyweight class, and Ward, the current European light-heavy champion and No. 1 seed in Kharkiv, cruised past Scotland’s Sean Lazzerini.
Targeting his third European gold, Ward rarely moving out of second gear and used his jab as the triggering mechanism for flashing backhands to outclass the Glaswegian.
“I came out here for the gold medal and that is what I will be aiming for. That’s always been the goal,” said the 23-year-old Westmeath southpaw and 2015 World Elite finalist.
Walker put the record straight with Italy’s Raffaele Di Serio – who beat the Lisburn bantam in the European U/22s earlier this year – on a 3-1 split decision. A tight contest saw three of the judges opt for the Irish champion; one gave Di Serio the nod and a third mark it 28-28.
Walker now meets Odessa-native Mykola Butsenko of the Ukraine in the semi-finals looking to move a step closer to retaining the bantam belt which Ireland has held for four years.
“Absolutely buzzing over the win. Stuck to the game plan and got the job done. Fighting Ukraine next, going to be tough but I’m feeling unbeatable,” said Walker.
Walker’s ex Irish team-mates, Michael Conaln and John Joe Nevin, who have since turned pro, won gold at the 2013 and 2015 European finals, Nevin beating Butsenko in the 2013 final.
Meanwhile, Belfast light-welter Sean McComb was very unlucky to drop a split decision to England’s Luke McCormack yesterday. McComb’s slicker boxing skills looked like winning the day against his aggressive opponent. But the judges leaned toward the Sunderland fighter on a 3-2 split. Two of the judges scored all three rounds (30-27) to McComb, but the other three marked it 29-28 each to McCormack.
Irvine, Walker, McComb, and Ward have qualified for the World Championships in Hamburg, GermanY in August/September by virtue of reaching the quarter-finals in the Ukraine.
Today is a rest day at the European Championships. The semi-finals and finals will be decided tomorrow and Saturday.
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