The reign of Queen Katie is over. The crown she has occupied for a dozen years, shaken twice by defeats this year, was finally toppled by a Finnish mother of two fed up with always losing to her.
Katie Taylor’s hold on the Olympic lightweight crown won so magnificently in London four years ago did not survive its first challenge.
The tears of joy that flowed in one Games were sobs of sorrow here.
The Bray boxer of 2012 would have swotted away the challenge of Mira Potkonen when she was in her pomp.
When Potkonen came to Bray in 2013 as part of Taylor’s post-Olympic homecoming celebrations, she lost on an unanimous decision.
But that Taylor is no more. She is not the giant of the ring she has been since she dispatched another Finn with a broken nose to win the European championship in 2005, the five-time world champion who won six consecutive European titles and 17 championship gold medals.
The most decorated boxer in the history of women’s boxing is widely thought outside Ireland to have slowed. Fifteen years since her first sanctioned bout, the first ever in Ireland for a woman, she is not feared as she once was.
Twice this year preparing for the Olympics she has been beaten, in the world championship by France’s Estelle Mossely on a split decision and in the European Olympic qualifying tournament in another split decision by Azerbajani Yana Alekseevna.
So it was a slight surprise that AIBA still seeded her number one for her Olympic defence and probably only because she was defending the crown.
And numerically it was not a strong division. Taylor had only to win her first fight to be assured a place in the semi-finals and a medal.
Always quiet-spoken she struggled to speak after this defeat. Her only defiance came in answer to the obvious question about her future. “I’m not finished yet, that’s for sure. The losses during the year have been very, very tough but I really felt like I came into this competition very well prepared and I really believed that I’d come home with a gold medal.
“But the plans that I have in my heart are sometimes different than God’s plans. I just have to trust him during this time. I feel like it’s obviously been a very challenging year.
“I’ve been getting so many texts from people praying for me during the week. I’m just so humbled by that and the support over the last year has been absolutely incredible.
“I don’t think I would have been in this position, going into my second Olympic Games, if it wasn’t for that my support, if it wasn’t for my incredible family, my church family… it’s such a privilege to be here. I’m just sorry I couldn’t come home with a second Olympic gold medal.”
A still emotional Taylor later tweeted: “In the midst of a disappointing year, I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the amazing support. I love you all.”
She has fought the Finn five times and won each time. “I really should be beating those girls, for sure. But congratulations to her.”
Potkonen, 35, married with two children even before she took up boxing for recreation nine years ago, saw it differently.
“I have lost so many times to her, I was not confident. I was scared while waiting. But I was fed up with losing to her, I’d had enough of it.”
She won a bronze medal in this year’s world championship and is now guaranteed an Olympic bronze. Probably not more because she fights Alekseevna, in the semi-finals and as she talked afterward she was holding an ice bag to a very swollen left eye, proof that at least some of Taylor’s blow had got through the defences. “
Taylor was convinced of her victory. “I thought the second round she won for sure but I thought the other three rounds I won. Then again they were probably close. In real time, I thought I did do enough to win but I should be winning those fights a bit more convincingly. I’m not here to make excuses or anything.”
Taylor had not been waiting around as long as Michael Conlan who left Ireland on July 19 with the other men. She came out later because she would not be fighting until the Games’ second week.
She refused then to accept that the long lead-in to her first fight affected the result. “I can’t say that. I was well prepared. The coaches around were fantastic. I got plenty of sparring over here. I was ready and sharp. It just didn’t happen for me.”
Ireland now is down to a single contender for a medal, Michael Conlan, a winner on Sunday and fighting again in the quarter-finals with a medal at stake when he meets Russian Vladimir Nikitin today.It hardly bears thinking how the boxing Establishment in Ireland will judge the events of Rio if Conlan was to lose.
Eight sent, one coached by IABA president Pat Ryan sent home in disgrace for doping and seven more beaten already, four in their first contests.
The results of the inquest that must follow the team’s return will be interesting. Blame the boxers?
Blame the coaches?
Blame decisions on which weight divisions each should contest?
But as Taylor said yesterday, perhaps it was just not meant to be.
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