Katie Taylor: Four rounds to excel
In the second extract from her new book, ‘My Olympic Dream’, Katie Taylorlooks back on the gold medal bout that felt more like a game of chess
It must have been for less than half a minute, but when the bell sounded for the start of the fight, although I was bouncing around and seemed to be moving well, I couldn’t get going. I could see every punch that was coming, but I didn’t seem to be able to react to them in the way that I usually could. I had to step back and clear out of Ochigava’s way to stop her from scoring. Meanwhile, I almost had to force my left hand to leave my face in order to get my jab going.
It seemed as though I was going through the motion of pushing out the shots, but there was a resistance. That first part of the fight seemed endless, but in real time it was no longer than the opening moments. This had never happened before. It was like there was a weight bearing down on my shoulders and my head was cloudy. I couldn’t concentrate on what I needed to do. I’m not sure if it was simply the pressure of the occasion or something deeper, but either way I thank God it lifted and my punches started to flow. After the two minutes of the first round had come to a close, I was content to get back to my corner to see Dad and coach Zaur Antia.
I felt the round had gone well despite the concerns of the opening moments. I thought I might have been a point up but the score was level at 2-2, and I was satisfied with that. With that round behind me, I felt a lot more relaxed and happier than I was in the first 20 seconds. It’s amazing how moods can shift in a fight; within seconds you can go from being in an uncomfortable struggle to being in charge and confident. That was what happened here, because by the break I really did feel sharper. Dad was saying to me: “Everything is great, everything is going well. Keep doing what you’re doing and continue to be patient”. He also added: “Try to get a little bit closer to her before you start your attack, sometimes you’re too far out”.
It’s amazing how moods can shift; within seconds you can go from being in a struggle to being in charge.
For a lot of the time in the second round I was feinting – trying to make her react with some punches so that I could then counter-punch her. It was tit-for-tat all of the time, a thinking match where we were both inviting the other to throw the first punch so that we could score with our own counter-attacks. Like all of our fights before, it was again turning into a game of chess more than a punching brawl. We were circling the ring and watching each other, both of us waiting for the other to do something, to show their hand. There would be a flurry of activity as we both tried to snatch some scores and then it was back to the tense game of chess.
In retrospect, I was a bit too passive in round two and I paid the price; the score after the round was 4-3 to Ochigava. To the pundits, this was the nightmare situation for me: to be behind against the girl widely regarded as the best out-and-out counter-puncher in the world wasn’t exactly ideal. But I wasn’t scared by the situation. I knew exactly what I had to do as I came back to my corner for a second time.
I believed my Dad when he told me I could pull back the lead from her. I just had to execute Dad’s tactics better. Honestly, at this stage, I was still very confident; I was a point down, but we were composed.
I think that a few years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I might have become uptight about it and started to worry more about the clock ticking down. With my experience, I knew that trailing by one point or even two at this stage of the bout was absolutely nothing; it was part of the natural ebb and flow of any contest. I had been attacking from too far away throughout the second round and I got caught with a couple of shots. Towards the end of the round, I started to get back into it and I landed with a one-two. But I needed to get closer when I was trying to score, if I attacked her from too far out, it was too easy for her to time her counter-punches.