Kurt Walker has fashioned a stunning upset at the Tokyo Olympics outpointing world featherweight champion Miriazizbek Mirzakhalilov from Uzbekistan in a last 16 contest.
The Lisburn fighter now advances to Sunday’s quarter-final against US featherweight Ragan Duke, who is coached by Ireland's Billy Walsh, where he will be fighting for a bronze medal.
“Indescribable,” was how Walker reacted to the win, though he did maintain after his first round victory on Saturday that he wasn’t in the least fazed at the prospects of meeting the highly rated Mirzakhalilov.
“I just need to get my head level again and try and relax and recover. But I am buzzing,” he said after he deservingly won the fight on a 4-1 majority decision.
“My tactics were just to try and keep him off by feigning and working the jab. I knew I was fit, so I definitely could do it for two rounds anyway and get two rounds up which I did. I knew he was going to push on strong. I’m delighted. This is the highlight so far.
“I just knew he is relentless and I knew it was going to be a tough fight and I knew I would have to dig deep. We have the best coaches in the world. I was delighted to see them so happy because it brings me on. It will be hard to better beating the world champion. It is is like a fairy tale.”
Walker produced a master class counter punching performance the success of which hinged on him winning the first round. Five of the judges like his counter punching style and gave him the nod which put him in the driving seat.
Now it was up to the Uzbek fighter to chase him and Walker’s brilliant footwork and evasive skills meant he is a difficult opponent to nail. Crucially three of the judges give the Irish fighter the nod in the second round which meant he had effectively won the contest provided he avoided being knocked out in the last round.
Mirzakhalilov did dominate the round winning in on four of the judges’ cards but it was too late as Walker went through 29-28, 29-28, 29-28,29-28 ,27-30.
The world champion came into the tournament on the back of a rare defeat – he was beaten in the final of the Asian championship by a Mongolian fighter in his last fight in May. Perhaps his confidence was slightly dented as a result.
What’s overlooked is that Walker is a very experienced fighter. He sparred against Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan before the London Games in 2012 and he was won medals at European and Commonwealth level.
Now he has a once in a lifetime opportunity to add an Olympic medal to his collection.