Northern Ireland boxer Kurt Walker has taken the bantamweight gold medal at the an Games in Belarus.

The Lisburn fighter defeated Mykola Butsenko of Ukraine by unanimous decision.

The 24-year-old showed impressive speed and footwork to win all three rounds on three of the five scorecards and clinch Ireland’s first gold medal in Minsk.

Team-mate Kellie Harrington was forced to withdraw from her lightweight final with a hand injury.

The reigning world champion suffered the injury during her semi-final win against Sweden’s Agnes Alexiusson and had to surrender her chance of adding to her gold medal collection.

“I’m disappointed to not be competing but I understand that there’s a bigger picture to be taken into account,” said Harrington.

“It would be too much of a risk to go in there and have another setback. I totally respect the advice of the medical staff and the decision of the Performance Director [Bernard Dunne].”

The Irish team’s Performance Director Bernard Dunne added: “It is unfortunate that hand injuries are part and parcel of , but we need to manage it the right way to ensure a quick return to action.

“Kellie has ans and Worlds before the year is out and upcoming Olympic qualification events that we are looking forward to. In making this decision we had to take in the big picture to ensure that we don’t further injure the hand.”

Walker lands gold

The injury to team captain Harrington meant that Walker had to shoulder the gold-medal hopes for an Irish squad that had already secured five medals in Minsk but had yet to get a fighter to the top step of the podium.

The 2018 EU Championship gold medallist started brightly against his southpaw opponent as he used his longer reach and lightning speed to pick off his shots.

Kurt Walker beat Peter McGrail of Great Britain in the semi-finals

In a closer second round, Butsenko made his mark with a couple of crisp blows that rocked Walker but the Lisburn boxer regained his composure to finish the round strongly and held onto his lead on the scorecards.

A scrappy final round saw the referee step in to warn both fighters before Walker opened up a cut above his opponent’s left eye, which briefly needed medical attention.

Having landed the cleaner punches throughout the contest, Walker was deservedly awarded the fight; 29-28, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 30-27 by the five judges.

The gold medal success caps an impressive tournament for the Irish squad, which also featured silver medals for Harrington and Michaela Walsh and bronze medals for Regan Buckley, Michael Nevin and Grainne Walsh.


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