‘Pressure off’ for Katie Taylor at Rio Olympics as weight of expectations lifted

Katie Taylor insists her two recent losses have lifted pressure off her shoulders as she bids to retain her Olympic title in Rio.

The Bray woman suffered two defeats inside six weeks earlier this year, having previously gone five years unbeaten.

Her loss to Yana Alekseevna of Azerbaijan last April threatened to upset her Olympic qualification before Taylor got back on track at the World Championships in June to seal her qualification for Rio.

However, that tournament ended in defeat after a contentious points loss to Estelle Mossely of France derailed her bid for a sixth world title in a row as the Irish woman had to be content with bronze.

Despite those losses, the 30-year-old is still a money-on favourite with the bookies to retain Olympic gold in Rio even though she maintains she does not feel the same burden of expectation she felt prior to the London 2012 Games.

“I probably feel less pressure now. People aren’t expecting me to walk through the competition,” said Taylor. 

“I think the pressure might be taken from me a small bit. It’s all good, really.

“I’m still going into the competition with the same mindset, and those losses haven’t changed my mindset on things. 

“That’s the most important thing.

“The pressure was huge going into London, definitely,” continued the Bray native.

“Just to have that experience of going into those Olympics, and feeling that pressure and overcoming it was great experience for me going into any competition.”

Taylor’s impressive ring record now stands at 168 wins and nine losses, but the Olympic champion insists she’s wary of the up-and-coming talent in her 60kg lightweight division.

Twelve boxers will compete at the female 60kg weight class in Rio, with boxing getting underway on Friday, August 12, although Taylor will not be sure of her first assignment until later today when the draw for the tournament takes place.

As the No. 1 ranked fighter at the 60kg weight class, Taylor seems likely to receive a bye to the quarter-finals as a top seed, which would leave her just three wins from retaining her Olympic title.

However, the 30-year-old expects a tough test no matter who she comes up against.

“It’s always tough to stay at the top for so long. Definitely, there’s a lot of strength in depth in my division,” said Taylor. “Every competition over the years has been very tough. I haven’t walked those competitions.

“There have been a lot of challenges over the years that I have overcome. This Olympics will be no different. I’m looking forward to it.”

Alekseevna, Mossely and other former foes such as home fighter Adriana Araujo and Finland’s Mira Potkonen are all set to compete, while American Mikaela Mayer would also be an interesting opponent as she will have former Ireland coach Billy Walsh in her corner.

“I think we all know the 12 boxers that have qualified in the weight division. Just like in London, I knew the 12 boxers that had qualified,” said Taylor. 

“We know who we’re going to be up against and will be preparing for whoever steps into the ring.

“People have been talking as if there’s been a big rise in women’s boxing. Women’s boxing has always been very, very strong.”

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