Katie Taylor ready for Olympic title defence against Mira Potkonen

Katie Taylor will open the defence of her Olympic title today against former foe Mira Potkonen.
Katie Taylor ready for Olympic title defence against Mira Potkonen

The 30-year-old Bray native suffered her first defeat in five years last April against Yana Alekseevna of Azerbaijan before suffering another loss at the World Championships in June to eventual world champion Estelle Mossely.

Both of those rivals are competing in Rio, while there is additional intrigue in Taylor’s 60kg lightweight division as American Mikaela Mayer has former Ireland coach Billy Walsh in her corner.

Mayer is on the other side of the draw to Taylor, but the 26-year-old Californian won her opening bout on Friday night.

While Walsh did not work Taylor’s corner on many occasions, the mixed results for Irish boxers at Rio has led to analysis of Walsh’s departure from Irish boxing, but Taylor is not concerned about any side stories or dramatic narratives that may accompany her bouts or potential opponents.

“It’s dramatic from an Irish point of view, but for me it’s just the same,” Taylor said last month.

“I’ll be getting in the ring with the same focus, whether I’ll be getting into the ring against Billy Walsh’s boxer or anyone else. I’ll be focused and hopefully prepared for anyone who steps into the ring,” she added.

Taylor has boxed Finland’s Potknonen on a number of occasions, recording a last-16 win over her at the 2014 World Championships, while the Finn also travelled to Ireland for a bout against the Bray woman in her hometown three years ago.

Some pundits have questioned whether 30-year-old Taylor may be on the slide following her two defeats this year – suggesting age is against her – but Irish head coach Zaur Antia dismissed such concerns in advance of the Games.

The Georgian instead suggested familiar foes and new talent on the 60kg women’s international scene are Taylor’s main obstacles.

“Her age is no problem and her lifestyle and attitude is excellent, but women’s boxing is at a very high level now,” said Antia.

“Especially at Olympic weights where you have Olympic champions and youth world champions. Nearly everyone Katie meets now, she’s beaten them two or three times before but this is not easy.

“It’s dangerous fighting someone you’ve beaten two or three times before. Katie’s still very strong… they are getting close, but not close enough to beat her,” added Antia.

The Olympic champion’s two losses this year provoked an at-times hysterical reaction in Ireland. Taylor is adamant she does not expect any easy bouts at the Games, with Alekseevna a potential semi-final opponent and Mossely on the other side of the draw.

“The difference between winning and losing can be small margins at times, especially in international boxing,” said Taylor.

“There are no easy fights - especially when you get to that stage of the competition in the semis and the quarters, every fight is so tough. It is disappointing [to have lost this year], but you just have to pick yourself back up and look at the positives,” added the 30-year-old.

Today’s bout will also mark Taylor’s first Olympic contest without her father Pete in her corner after his decision to step away from that role in November.

Along with Walsh’s absence, there has been plenty of analysis surrounding Ireland’s preparations and coaching arrangements for Rio. However, Antia has been a near-constant presence in Taylor’s corner and the Bray woman has previously praised the Georgian for his technical influence on her career.

Even prior to the Games and regular media references to Walsh, Antia was keen to see the role of all his fellow Irish coaches recognised in an effort to limit the on-going attention paid to Walsh’s controversial departure.

The 53-year-old has regularly commended the work of fellow cornermen Eddie Bolger and John Conlan along with High-Performance coach Dima Dmitruk and S&C specialist John Cleary.

“I feel when Billy left, it was tragic, but people forget one person doesn’t make everything possible,” said Antia. “I know exactly what I’ve done, what Eddie has done, what Billy done, what Dima [Dmitruk] has done and what John Conlan has done. I respect all of them and give credit everywhere.”

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