A FIRST real step-up brought the best out of Kurt Walker at the Ulster Hall on Saturday as he took James Beech Jr apart to claim the vacant WBA Continental Europe featherweight title as the visitor was retired by his corner at the end of the seventh.

The Tokyo Olympian had been handed decent tests in his 10 previous outings and they stood to him on a night in which he proved he is ready to make the ascent, finding the answers against the aggressive Englishman and systematically breaking him down.

He had stopped just one of his previous opponents and that came on his debut, but it is clear he has the power to trouble, the movement to bamboozle and skillset to punish, delivering a breakout performance on a card of the same name.

"I trained hard for eight weeks and it showed in there as it was a different Kurt Walker," he said after.

"I was able to get back to my usual self so I'm happy. I had all the answers and I was getting better.

"I'd a feeling I would get him out of there and I'm glad it came through as I was hitting hard. I was getting tired too and sometimes it's hard to find an extra gear when you're going that hard. You know it's (stoppage) not far away but you can't get it. 

"I said I was going to do it against the bigger boys as I hadn't had a stoppage since my first fight but my hardest fight yet, I said I was going to do it and I did it. It's only going to get better."


The Lisburn man was making his first significant step-up in class against a man who knew another defeat would likely be the end of any further title opportunities.

With that being the case, Beech sought to establish himself early but Walker had anticipated as much, countering well and throwing downstairs to repel the Englishman's advances.

He was being made to work but producing the better quality with the beautifully placed right through the middle forcing Beech backwards.

There was a cut around Beech's left eye in the third as Walker was peppering him with a variety of shots, but the visitor continued to try and force the issue. 

He was having his moments, but Walker was having much more as his footwork and accuracy were outstanding, seemingly comfortable with the high pace with Beech perhaps feeling it a little more despite being the aggressor.

But still he kept coming even though all the clean work was from Walker, sending an uppercut home and then at the end of the sixth crouching to the ropes, spun away and landed a one-two.

A right from Walker in the seventh had Beech in all sorts or trouble as he sensed a finish might be on, but the visitor rode the storm and bravely tried to fight back.

It proved to be his last stand as his corner decided enough was enough before the eighth began.

A superb performance from Walker and on a night in which he had the chance to announce himself, he did just that.

With a first title now banked, the road should open up and the manner of his performance will give his handlers confidence he is ready for lift-off.

Walker's first 10 fights came in just two years, so he has been kept busy, but now it's time for a breather and survey what is next.

"I've put my name in the hat for big fights now, so hopefully big fights next and in Belfast," he confirmed.

"I'll take a bit of a break, see my family will be ready to go in June."