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'The hardest thing I've ever done' - Billy Walsh laments role in eliminating Kurt Walker from Olympics

Walsh drafted Walker into Ireland’s High Performance Unit as a 17-year-old in 2012, but trained Duke Ragan to victory over the Irishman in Tokyo.

Walsh embraces Walker after he was narrowly beaten by Duke
Walsh embraces Walker after he was narrowly beaten by Duke
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

USA BOXING HEAD coach Billy Walsh has described his role in Kurt Walker’s elimination from the Olympics as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.

Walsh’s American featherweight Duke Ragan denied Walker a medal on Sunday morning, earning a razor-tight split-decision victory over the Lisburn man to progress to the semi-finals.

It was the first time at an Olympic Games that Walsh coached against Ireland, and his embrace of the dejected Walker post-fight told its own story: Walsh himself drafted Walker into the Irish High Performance setup as a 17-year-old and helped to train him for three years before his acrimonious departure from the IABA.

Walsh later said he still missed his former Irish-boxing colleagues, with whom he has remained in frequent contact since taking a role with the USA in late 2015.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo following Ragan’s win over Walker, Walsh said: “In 2012, we brought Kurt into the Irish program for this day and I was part of preventing him from achieving that.

“Kurt has been the standout in this division at the Olympics, his coaches are the best in the world.

“They were my colleagues for 12 years. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster.”

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“For me, as an Irishman, it’s the worst place in the world to be,” Walsh said. “He deserves a medal. But I’m happy because my boy won.

“At the end of the day, he (Walker) is a real hero. He’s a great kid. He’s got a massive future in amateur boxing and I wish him every success.”

Asked if this reunification in Tokyo had been ‘emotional’, Walsh replied:

Yeah, this has been hard. This is the first time at the Olympic Games that we’ve met. Even though it’s five and a half years removed from when I left, all my colleagues are there. They’re a great team and I miss them.

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