After suffering two losses inside the space of six weeks, Katie Taylor agrees with the suggestion bouncing back to claim gold in Rio would be her greatest achievement yet.
And while the post-mortem into her last defeat is yet to take place, she admits that will be a necessary if painful experience; something she appears to find more daunting than any real or exaggerated fears surrounding the Zika virus.
The Olympic champion was present at the launch of the official New Balance Olympic kit in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre yesterday, standing out among her Ireland team-mates in a resplendent white tracksuit that would very much look at home on top of a podium on August 19.
It is a place Taylor is eager to return to after the unfamiliar experience of returning home from two consecutive tournaments without gold.
While her tight loss to Yana Alekseevna of Azerbaijan in April threatened to upset her Olympic qualification, the 29-year-old recovered to book her place in Rio with a semi-final finish at last month’s World Championships before a questionable points decision against Estelle Mossely of France scuppered hopes of a sixth world title on the bounce. That latest defeat leaving Taylor’s formidable record at 168 wins and nine losses.
Having previously gone five years unbeaten, the other emerging talents on the women’s 60kg lightweight scene have managed to find a chink in the armour and the Olympic champion realises her crown will be the most coveted prize in Rio.
“It definitely will,” answered Taylor when quizzed on whether retaining her Olympic title would be her finest moment. “With the challenges of this year, to stand on top of the podium is going to be an unbelievable feeling,” she continued.
“I feel that the losses will do me good. I never think about losing. That’s why it’s so hard to accept a loss.
“At the same time, I’m going to the Olympic Games with the same mindset as every other competition, with the hope of coming home with a gold medal,” added Taylor.
The fact that she refers to her success in Rio as somewhat inevitable is indicative of the confidence the Bray woman rightly carries thanks to her years of success.
Two losses do not necessarily finish a fighter, but Taylor was quick to acknowledge she must take lessons from her defeats, even if the decision against Mossely was a contentious one.
Taylor has previously admitted she is sometimes reluctant to review tapes of her bouts due to her self-critical nature but she agrees a loss is more worthy of analysis than a win.
“I did look at the one from Turkey against the Azeri girl [Alekseevna] and I was glad I watched the fight and I did learn from it. It is very important to sit down and see what went wrong. Instead of someone else telling you, you can actually see for yourself. I feel like I did come back a better boxer for the World Championships from that loss and this [defeat to Mossely] is going to be no different.
“I will learn from that over these next few weeks, rectify things and go to the Olympics better and stronger than ever,” added Taylor, who conceded standing on a podium without gold was an unpleasant experience.
“It’s a horrible feeling, a very humble feeling. It’s not where you want to be. I just want to run away in those situations, but you just have to grin and bear it. It’s been a very challenging few months, for sure, and a very disappointing few months. But, at the same time, a lot of positives have come out of those few months as well.”
Taylor may be planning on travelling to Rio in prime condition, but the standard of her opposition has been gradually improving.
Eleven boxers have qualified at her 60kg weight class, including Alekseevna, Mossely and American Michaela Mayer (the latter under the guidance of Billy Walsh), while a wildcard tripartite place is also yet to be handed out.
It is believed that Irish head coach Zaur Antia is planning on once again bringing in Taylor’s London 2012 opponent, Sofya Ochigava, for sparring in preparation for the challenge once her rest period is over.
“I’ve seen the list of the boxers who have qualified and it’s very, very strong. At lightweight there’s a lot of strength in depth in that weight division,” said Taylor. “There are no easy fights in that weight division, which is great and it’s going to be an exciting Olympic Games.”
That excitement has not been diminished by warnings surrounding the threat of the Zika virus.
“It’s not really something that I’ve thought about at all, to be honest,” said Taylor when quizzed on the virus, which has spread throughout Brazil.
“I’m just focusing on the competition itself. I don’t think any of the athletes are worrying too much about it. It wouldn’t put me off. Hopefully, I won’t get bitten by a mosquito. It’s not what people think. The virus stays in your system for 10 days if you do get bitten. It’s fine,” added Taylor.
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