Katie on top of the world

The realisation she had qualified for the London Olympics resulted in a flood of emotion that exposed the human side of Katie Taylor at the women’s world boxing championships in the Chinese city of Qinhuangdao during the week but then it was back to business as usual for the Bray superstar.

What happened after that provided an exploding Irish fan club with an opportunity to see just what all the hype was about courtesy of RTÉ who rose to the occasion on the tide of emotion by showing both the semi-final and final bouts.

Those two contests could not have done more to highlight the immense talent of this woman who adorned her room with pictures of Ali, Leonard, Duran and Hagler at a time when other teenagers pasted posters of pop stars.

She out-boxed Mavzuna Chorieva (Tajikistan) in a thrilling action-packed semi-final and then, for the aficionado, she outfoxed Russia’s wily two-time world champion, Sofya Ochigava, in the final to showcase the other side of her talents.

After watching the semi-finals, few would have realised the threat Chorieva would pose and Taylor afterwards reflected on what she described as a “tricky contest” and explained the part played by her father in the victory.

“He told me to just keep your nerve — my dad’s always very encouraging in the corner,” she said.

“Every time before a fight he tells me to just go out and enjoy my boxing. Sofya is a fantastic boxer. She’s always been at the very top and I always found it a very, very difficult fight against her. That fight today was a great showcase for women’s boxing.”

There was no “getting to know you” in this fight — they did all that in their two previous clashes which ended up at one victory apiece. But the first round was tied 2-2, the second 2-2 and then Katie got through with her lethal left hand to win the third 4-2 before taking the fourth 3-1.

“It was always going to be a game of patience and a game of nerves. In those kind of fights you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Then in the third round I caught her with a couple of clean shots and that gave me the lead. In those kind of fights it is all about concentration and discipline.

“In the fourth round I was still a bit anxious and unsure because she caught me with a couple of shots in the last round as well. I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go. I was a bit tense near the end but, happily, my hand was raised in the end. But it was such a close fight it could have gone either way. Thank God I got the victory.”

Talk immediately switched to the Olympics and the medal that would clinch her place among boxing’s immortals. She just wanted to savour the moment, however.

“It’s always brilliant winning a world title — it’s always so special winning these major competitions,” she said. I’m just delighted now that I can go home as a world champion again.

“It’s amazing, really, to win four world titles. Thank God for the victory again. But it was such a tense fight in there — it was such a game of nerves and patience. I’m just delighted to be coming home as a world champion again.

“I’ll have a week off now and then I’ll be back training for the Olympics. It’s only seven weeks to the Olympics and please God my training will go well over the next seven weeks and I will be going into the Olympics in the best shape I’ve ever been in and hopefully I can come home with that gold medal that I’ve always been dreaming of.”

The victory sends her to London as world champion and favourite for the gold medal. The two finalists will be on opposite sides of the draw so can’t meet until the final — and they go straight into the quarter-finals and just one fight away from a bronze medal. But she was not impressed by the bye.

“I don’t really want the bye,” she said. “I’d prefer to get the fight but that’s brilliant. I’m delighted to be going into the Olympics as the current world champion. I will improve again over the next few weeks and hopefully I’ll come back with that gold medal for my country.

“Every day is planned for me now. I’ll train with the other five lads who have qualified for the Olympics. We’ll be training together. Hopefully we will be coming home with six medals.”

Her father, Pete, admitted he was relieved after the fight, pointing out it was always going to be a game of patience.

“The Russian girl is a great boxer — she’s brilliant — and we knew it was going to be a very tactical fight,” he said. “Whoever held her nerves the best was going to win it and thank God Katie held her nerve. It was a great performance.

“It wasn’t a fight for the armchair viewers — it was a fight for the connoisseur. You have to know your sport to appreciate that fight. There were so many little moves going on — all the feinting and everything — it was a great performance.”

Katie, who will be 26 in a month’s time, was just 19 when she made her debut in the world championships — already a European champion — but she lost in the quarter finals to Kang Kum-Hui (North Korea) and that was the only time she would lose at the world championships.

Since then she has had 19 consecutive victories along with last week’s walk-over.


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