Lisburn boxer Kurt Walker shows his class to seal Euro quarter-final slot
Lisburn man Kurt Walker enjoyed arguably the best win of his amateur career to secure a place in the last eight of the European Elite championships in Ukraine.
Walker, from the Canal club, boxed beautifully to outpoint Tayfur Aliyev of Azerbaijan, the number two seed, on a 4-1 decision from the five judges.
Bantamweight Walker will now face Italian Raffaele Di Serio in today's quarter-finals with victory sealing at least a bronze medal. Walker was defeated by the same opponent in March at the European U-22 Championships.
Yesterday, he found himself under pressure in the early stages as Aliyev landed some solid blows, but the Canal man started to find his range in the second half of the round. Walker then proceeded to take control of the bout, landing a series of sharp blows near the end of the second.
A cut sustained in his previous bout did open up in the third round but Walker had clearly done enough to deserve the verdict, which also means he has qualified for the World championships later this year.
Light-heavyweight Joe Ward also booked his place in the quarter-finals but there was disapppointment for Irish captain Darren O'Neill and Emmet Brennan who bowed out.
Ward, the current European champion and number one seed, floored Slovakia's Matus Strnisko in the first on the way to a comfortable victory, and Walker, Ward, Sean McComb and Brendan Irvine will all be in quarter-final action today as they seek to seal at least a bronze medal.
Gutted heavyweight O'Neill seemed to suggest he would be considering his future after his points defeat. "I felt I won the first and the third, the second was close... apparently three or four judges gave him the last round and he was out on his feet. I just don't know what I can do anymore."
Elsewhere, English lightweight Natasha Jonas has signed pro with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom company, who also manage Katie Taylor, and will make her debut in Newcastle on Friday.
"I can't wait to get started," Jonas said. "I want to get to the top of the game so it's great to get going before the summer and we can hit the ground running in the new season."