By Matt Bozeat

EDDIE Hearn has been told he will be smiling again soon. The Matchroom chief was on the receiving end of a 5-0 whitewash from arch-rivals Queensberry in their ‘5 vs 5’ match in Saudi Arabia last weekend.

If Conah Walker is right, Hearn will also remember 2024 as the year he staged the domestic fight of the year.

Walker will have some say in the matter. The fight he’s tipping to top the polls is his 10-rounder against Lewis Crocker in Birmingham on Saturday, June 22.

“We are both exciting, come forward fighters,” said the Wolverhampton welterweight, “and it’s a 50-50 fight.”

Perhaps it will top his win over Cyrus Pattinson last August?

In the immediate aftermath of Walker’s three-knockdown, eight-round beatdown, Hearn told broadcasters DAZN it had been “one of the best fights I’ve ever seen.”

Walker says Hearn “was on his feet going mad. His lad was getting beaten up.”

The result gave Hearn options on Walker and meant he had to rethink his plan to match Pattinson with Lewis Ritson in a North East derby.

Walker wasn’t fancied to spoil those plans given he was coming off a loss, down at 140lbs to Kane Gardner.

“The losses have benefitted me,” said the 29-year-old, who’s co-managed by Mick Carney and Errol Johnson and trained by ex-pro Richie Ghent.

“I have got opportunities because of them. They think that because I’ve been beaten, I will roll over. The opposite is the case. The losses have made me more hungry.

“Before the Pattinson fight, I was saying: ‘Don’t book a fight after me.’ No one was beating me that night.”

The talk now is of an all-Irish clash between Crocker and Paddy Donovan.

Donovan stopped Ritson in nine rounds on the Jack Catterall-Josh Taylor II show and Walker said: “The commentators were saying that Donovan-Crocker is a huge clash in Ireland. They are overlooking me again.”

Walker and Crocker bumped into each other when they boxed on the same bill in Belfast in January.

Belfast, UK: Lewis Crocker v Jose Felix, WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight Title. 27 January 2024. Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.

After Pattinson was ruled out of their rematch with an eye injury, Walker got a late call to face Welsh champion Lloyd Germain (9-0) and forced a third-round stoppage, while Crocker took out Jose Felix (40-6-1) with a trademark left hook in the fifth.  

“I sized him (Crocker) up in the lift and he looked like a frail boy,” said Walker, who has a one-year-old son Leo with partner Isabelle White.

“I know he’s tight at the weight. He weighed in heavy for that and they said he only had five weeks to prepare. I only had two weeks and I made the weight.”

Walker says his points loss to Manchester mover Gardner in front of the Channel Five cameras last March convinced him that 140lbs isn’t his weight.

“I didn’t have the legs,” said Walker. “I took too much out of myself getting down to 140lbs. My whole career people have been saying I should be at 140 lbs, but it didn’t pay off. I felt flat leading up to the fight and flat on fight night.”

Up at 147lbs, only Samuel Antwi has beaten Walker, on a close unanimous points decision for the English belt in Cardiff in February, 2022.

Walker thought he deserved better than to lose by one, two and three points on the scorecards and has seen Antwi go on to win British honours up at 154lbs.

“I feel I’m better prepared for this,” said Walker of his clash with Crocker.

“I fought unbeaten fighters in my fifth and sixth fights (Nathan Bendon and Ohio Kain Iremiren) and I’ve fought for Midlands and English titles.

“He hasn’t fought a fully-fledged welterweight who comes to have it.

“He looked good against Tyrone (McKenna in a 10-round points win last December) because he had the chance to move and punch. He needs those gaps to generate his power and he won’t get them against me.”

Walker and Ricky Hatton looked to be the perfect fit after Conah turned pro in 2018 following a run to the semi-finals of the Elite Championship, where he was beaten by Harvey Lambert.

Walker had first appeared on Hatton’s radar at the finals of the 2017 Development Championships in Solihull.

Hatton was there to see son Campbell win junior honours and the well-supported Walker was in typically robust mood as he added the Class B title at 69kgs to the 75kgs title he won two years previously.

“Turning pro with Ricky created a great storyline for myself,” said Walker.

“It was a great platform, but there was too much travelling (to Hatton’s gym in Hyde, Greater Manchester) and me and my partner (Isabelle) were pushing for a baby.”

Walker headed home and in his first fight with ex-pro Ghent in his corner, he won the Midlands Area welterweight title by outpointing Levi Ferguson (5-1) in Sheffield in May, 2021.

“We have had a couple of losses (since then),” said Walker, “but I never thought of leaving him. They were down to me and I learned from them.

“I was going into fights too hot-headed. I had smoke coming out of my ears!

“I wanted to get in there and kill them instead of relaxing into the fight and breaking them down.”

That style has made Walker popular. He expects to have 700 supporters behind him when he faces Crocker at the Resorts World Arena later this month and Walker is convinced they will get value for money.

“It’s got fight of the year written all over it,” he said.