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Walker gets first chance to show Irish boxers can pack a real punch



Kurt Walker (INPHO/Andrew Fosker)

Kurt Walker (INPHO/Andrew Fosker)

©INPHO/Andrew Fosker

Kurt Walker (INPHO/Andrew Fosker)

Kurt Walker will be the first Irish boxer in the ring at the Tokyo Olympics.

He faces Spanish opponent Jose Quiles in a last-32 featherweight contest in the Kokugikan Arena in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Ironically, he was the last Irish boxer to have his slot in Tokyo confirmed but the Lisburn fighter has proved his medal-winning capabilities at European and Commonwealth level.

This is his opportunity to leave his mark on a bigger stage.

While the full details of the draw have yet to emerge, there was mixed news for the seven-strong Irish squad.

Ireland’s only No.1-seeded fighter, Kellie Harrington, received a bye to the last-16 where she will face the winner of a first-round lightweight clash between an Italian and a Mexican.

No.4 seed Michaela Walsh also received a bye to the last-16 where she could face a familiar opponent. At the resumed European qualifiers in Paris at the beginning of June, the Belfast featherweight was beaten by Italian Irma Testa in the gold medal fight.

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Testa faces a Russian in the first round but if she wins, her next contest is against Walsh.

The two unlucky Irish fighters were European middleweight champion Aoife O’Rourke, who faces the No.4 seed and Rio bronze medallist Li Qian from China, and light-heavyweight Emmet Brennan, drawn against 2019 world silver medallist Dilshodbek Ruzmetov from Uzbekistan.

Irish team captain Brendan Irvine faces Carlo Paalam from the Philippines — a bronze medallist from the Asian Championship — and Aidan Walsh, who received a bye in the first round of the welterweight division, takes on either a fighter from Cameroon or Swaziland.

Irish team manager Bernard Dunne acknowledged that there are no easy draws at the Olympics.

“Everybody has fought hard to get their Olympic spot, worked hard to be here and we’ve just got to perform. We’re happy with where we are. We have sight now of what the first step looks like,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard as a team, as a unit, to qualify seven, which is a fantastic number to have.

“Everybody wants to win. Nobody is going in there thinking they’re going to lose. That’s the beauty of boxing. We’ve just got to focus on what we can control and what our strengths are and try to implement them in a fight.”

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