Katie Taylor expressed her “huge relief” after crowning her glittering career with an Olympic boxing gold medal with a gruelling 10-8 victory over experienced Russian Sofya Ochigava at ExCeL.
Taylor, roared on by thousands of Irish fans in the 10,000-capacity venue, had to overturn a one-point deficit at the half-way stage in order to add Olympic gold to the four world titles she has already claimed.
And afterwards, the Bray 26-year-old said she would ignore her father Peter’s pleas for her to hang up her gloves on a high, instead considering future options including a possible switch to the professional ranks.
Taylor said: “I have no intention to stop boxing. I’m definitely going to continue, but I don’t know whether I’ll turn professional or stay amateur. I’ll have to sit down and talk about it and we’ll make the decision in the next few weeks.”
If many considered the seemingly invincible Taylor a certainty for gold, those assumptions were shattered in a gruelling opening round in which the tough former world silver medallist Ochigava matched Taylor for muscle.
Bulling forward and clinching cleverly up close, Ochigava turned a level score at the end of the first round into a 4-3 lead at the half-way stage, but Taylor stayed patient and turned it her way in the third with a crisp right and superb counter.
Heading into the last with a 7-5 lead, Taylor still had a fight on her hands as the Russian muscled forward, landing two clean rights, making the wait for the verdict a surprisingly anxious one for Taylor and her legions of fans.
Taylor, crowned Ireland’s first Olympic boxing champion since Michael Carruth in Barcelona 20 years ago, said: “It was a huge relief. I didn’t know which the way decision had gone and I thought it might go to countback because there was a big delay.
“It’s what I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve envisaged this moment so many times before but it’s better than all my wildest dreams to be sitting here as Olympic champion as well as world and European champion. It’s a big relief to finally get the medal around my neck.”
Taylor, who has dominated her sport for years with little acclaim, shrugged off suggestions that her Olympic medal could change her, and said she has long since come to accept the fact that she will be boxing under pressure every time she gets in the ring.
Taylor added: “I’ll just continue to do what I’ve always done. Nothing’s going to change me when I go back home. I’m just going to take a few weeks off then get back into training and stay focused.
“There’s going to be pressure on every single contest, but it’s the pressure that I’ve putting on myself since I first started boxing at the age of 12, not the pressure from other people. So in that respect nothing is going to change.”
American 17-year-old Claressa Shields rounded off a magnificent women's competition by beating Nadezda Torlopova of Russia 19-14 to claim middleweight gold.
Shields dominated the bigger, former world champion to claim a popular win and said she had been spurred on to succeed after watching the US men’s team fail to secure a medal for the first time in Games history.
Shields said: “It’s unbelievable – I was surprised I didn’t cry. I feel the USA needs it. I’m glad someone won that gold medal, but I represent myself and them in the ring.”