The end Katie Taylor didn’t deserve

She suddenly looked like a little girl again. After all the invincibility and relative brilliance, after leading her sport so convincingly, it stopped here. But while endings are fine, this one felt like voyeurism, rubber-necking at a bloody and twisted car wreckage on the roadside.
The end Katie Taylor didn’t deserve

It should all have ended so differently.

From the beginning, this had been a story about her and her Dad and the dream they shared. One evening back in 1997, Peter had planned to leave her off at athletics training before he headed on to coach at the boxing club he’d started in Bray. At home, Katie had always watched him throwing punches at mirrors but when athletics was cancelled and Peter couldn’t get hold of a babysitter, she entered a gym for the first time and liked what she saw.

Ever since then, he’s been stood at her shoulder, from pulling the kitchen table to one side so she could bob and weave across the floor to every interview where he glared down journalists in case they overstepped the mark to when it mattered most in her corner. Of course there was the dream they realised together in London too.

Her and her Dad - inseparable. But here she was alone. It’s that which makes this more than just a loss.

Beaten on a split decision by Finland’s Mira Potkonen, their respective past records made this present grim. Taylor had beaten the 35-year-old mother of two whose only medal was a bronze at this year’s World Championships in all their five meetings but while she went 63 unbeaten into an Olympic year, that’s now three loses in six.

All is not well but this one goes beyond the mess of this Irish boxing team. That much was evident as she stared teary-eyed and wordless into a TV camera at ringside as you thought it almost better to switch channels. After so many moments shared by a nation, this didn’t seem like one for general consumption.

“We’d give the second round close but it was clear,” railed coach Eddie Bolger in the aftermath. “Right hand, left hooks, right hand, left hooks, right hand, left hooks. This guy [the AIBA official] is standing on my shoulder now to make sure I don’t say anything bad but it’s up to you guys. This happens a lot. It’s happened more often.

The French are flavour of the month now and if you go through the hierarchy, you’ll know why that is. That fight wasn’t even close.

You can add it up and it wasn’t close. It was a shocking decision. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Head coach Zaur Antia repeated that angry message. “She won,” he sighed. “She had good skills, sidesteps, clean punches, what else she can do now? Katie hit more, two times more, than she got hit.

What else she can do? Nobody can convince me that Katie lost this fight. You see her corner there. They were not happy, they were not sure, they had no confidence. When they raised her hand, did you see how they jumped?”

But such protestations are missing the point. For the men’s team, the loss of Billy Walsh has been talked about to the point Michael Conlan bizarrely launched an attack from what should have been a position of back-foot defence. However this is a very different case, a lonely tributary off of the main river.

Look back to 2012 or so many other occasions she’s been untouchable and the look at this. “I think you will have to speak to him about that,” Taylor said of his absence before coming here. “I’m not going to answer any questions. All I can say is my preparation is going fantastic. And I absolutely love my family and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”

How far you go into that is your business but be careful as there’s a fine line between where sport finishes and life begins. And this is a life story more than a sporting one.

So often public property in victory, space must now be made for the personal and private.

“Yeah, it’s very disappointing,” she said through tears after a long and stunned silence. “It’s been a very, very tough year. I’ve suffered a lot of losses this year and it’s very, very hard to take but the Olympics is a dream for me and I came in here and gave it my best shot but it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, the plans you have don’t go to plan. I just have to thank everyone for their prayers, I’m so humbled by that, God is so great it’s still such an honour to be here, I just want to thank everyone for their support.

“I guess I thought she probably won the second round but I thought the other three went my way but it’s hard to call. I should be beating those girls. I don’t know what to say about it, those girls shouldn’t be beating me.

“It was a long wait over here for a fight but I can’t blame that, I prepared very well. But it’s hard to keep that level of consistency going. Every fight is a close one, the judging is very subjective, it’s very hard to call it.”

Beaten, she looked to be there in body but not in mind. However it wasn’t the only notable and telling absence as the dream died.

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