Tokyo 2020: Kurt Walker gets Ireland’s boxers off to a winning start

In taekwondo, Jack Woolley was a surprise casualty when he lost to Lucas Guzman

Jose Quiles Brotons of Spain exchanges punches with Kurt Walker of Ireland (blue) during the men’s featherweight bout on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kokugikan Arena. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Jose Quiles Brotons of Spain exchanges punches with Kurt Walker of Ireland (blue) during the men’s featherweight bout on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kokugikan Arena. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

 

Boxing began its Olympic schedule with good news from Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena, where Kurt Walker came through his preliminary round of 32 in the men’s featherweight competition.

Walker won on a unanimous decision against Spain’s Jose Quiles Brotons, all five judges siding with the Lisburn boxer and 2017 European champion.

Crisp and athletic from the beginning, Walker fought from a distance and even though the Spaniard, nicknamed ‘Crazy Horse’, came out more aggressively by eating up Walker’s lead in the second round, the 26-year-old Irishman held his composure and steadied himself nicely to win the third round.

“I thought I dominated the first and third,” said Walker afterwards. “The second he gave it his all but he had nothing left in the third. But he is very good and I had to dig deep it was a great first fight for me.

“Whenever he had a good second round the corners were telling me he has given his all, go out and go back to your boxing. I got a bit nervous. It was a wee bit different. I knew what I had from experience.”

But the last 12 months following the postponement of the 2020 Games until this summer has helped with the cultivation of Walker’s boxing overall. He believes he is better equipped to go further in the competition.

“I have started to mature a bit,” said Walker. “It helps what I am fighting for and I know she (my baby daughter Layla) is going to be proud of me when she is older.”

A clash of heads late in the third round and a cut appearing above Walker’s right eye came too late in the bout to cause any great anxiety as he moves forward to meet the top seed in the division on July 28th.

As has been the case with several of the Irish fighters the draw has not been kind and Walker faces another challenge against Uzbeki Mirzakhalilov Mirazizbek, a professional boxer with one win in the paid ranks and the amateur World Champion in 2019.

“He has two arms and two legs like myself, it doesn’t bother me,” said Walker. “If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I have won a fight in the Olympics more than I thought I would do a year ago so I’m happy and I will keep going.”

In Taekwondo Dublin’s Jack Woolley became one of the early casualties when he lost a close match to Argentinean 11th seed Lucas Guzman 22-19 in the 57kg division.

Guzman earned the winning score in the last three seconds of the bout adding to Woolley’s dismay in a contest he would have been expected to win.

The Tallaght 22-year-old, who was seeded at six in the competition, still has an avenue to move forward in the repechage, where the best outcome is a bronze medal.

Any athlete who loses to a finalist in the single elimination competition enters the repechage. If Guzman makes it to the final, then Woolley goes into the repechage.

But a stunned Woolley left the arena disconsolate with the surprising reversal in his and Ireland’s first ever taekwondo outing in an Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020

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