Crucial battle as Katie Taylor resumes bid for Rio Olympics place

Olympic champion Katie Taylor begins her quest to try and qualify for her second Olympics when she takes on Agnes Alexiusson at the World Women’s Elite Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan today.

Aiming for a record sixth successive World lightweight title, she meets the Swede in the last 32 in Central Asia. Irish light-fly Donna Barr also fights today.

Alexiusson, who beat Italy’s Rio Olympian Irma Testa in Astana this week, claimed World Youth gold in 2013 and a bronze medal at the Olympic Youths in 2014.

The 20-year-old was beaten by Azerbaijan’s Yana Alexseevna at the European qualifiers in Turkey last month and finished in fifth spot, two places behind Taylor, who was also beaten by the Azeri.

Taylor needs to reach the semi-finals in Astana to book a Rio ticket at the final qualifier for women.

Failure to reach the last four will leave the Wicklow orthodox needing Alexseevna to make the semi-finals to qualify her by default for the 31st Olympiad.

“I always go into each competition very well prepared and this is no different.

“I will be doing my best not only to qualify but to get a second gold at Rio. First and foremost, I still love what I do, said Taylor.

“There is no real secret to staying on top.

“It’s always been down to working hard and staying focused. I am very blessed to be able to get up every day and do something that I love.” Meanwhile, Cork southpaw Christina Desmond lost to Morocco’s Rio 2016 Olympian Khadija Mardi on a unanimous decision yesterday in the Olympic 75kg class. The verdict means Ireland will not have a female middleweight in Rio.

Desmond took a standing count in the fourth, but can consider herself unlucky as she floored the North African in the second with a peach of a punch but the ref ruled it a slip.

“It was a good punch, very good punch from Christina,” said Irish coach Zaur Antia. “She left no energy back. Everyone can see she gave it 200% against the tall girl.” Kelly Harrington comfortably beat Lithuania’s Austeja Auciute, who won five underage Irish titles with the Finn Valley BC in Donegal before returning to her native country. But Dervla Duffy and Moira McElligot bowed out at the last 32 stage.

Elsewhere yesterday, Paddy Barnes won flyweight gold at the Soickas Invitational in Kaunas, Lithuania on a unanimous decision over Spain’s Martin Salvador.

Barnes has qualified from Rio 2016 at light-flyweight. The Belfast dynamo had an accident in Thursday’s semi-final win over Gabriel Escobar. Returning to his corner, the two-time Olympic bronze medallist sat down only to hit the floor in the ring for the first time in his career after the stool provided by local boxing officials collapsed underneath him.

Barnes saw the funny side of the incident and posted the clip on his Twitter page. Flyweights weigh-in at 52kg. It was just as well a super-heavyweight (91+kg) didn’t sit on the stool!


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