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tokyo 2020 Kurt Walker first up for Irish boxers while Kellie Harrington gets bye to last 16

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Kurt Walker at the airport

Kurt Walker at the airport

Kurt Walker at the airport

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 Saturday 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 number one 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.

Number four 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.

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 middle weight champion Aoife O’Rourke who faces the number four seed and Rio bronze medallist Li Qian from China.

Light heavyweight Emmet Brennan, who has chased his Olympic dream for a decade, was 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.

“We’re worked really hard as a team, as a unit, to qualify seven, which is a fantastic number to have. Our guys are ready at start at this stage.

Even though Kellie Harrington is the number one seed, she still has to perform to her best according to Dunne. “And Kellie knows that. All of our team are taking it day by day. We’re moved from a very broad training phase to a very narrow focus on performance and being very specific on what we do daily in training. Now we can be more specific. We have sight of who we’re going in against.”

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He warned that all the opponents drawn against the Irish fighters were dangerous.

“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.”

Dunne said the team was very proud of the fact that Kellie Harrington and Brendan Irvine had been chosen as the Irish flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony tomorrow.

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