Katie Taylor looks certain to take final step
Bray boxer poised to take sixth successive European crown
Katie Taylor after beating Bulgaria’s Denitsa Eliseeva in the 60kg semi-final of the European Women’s Boxing Championships in Bucharest. Photograph: Octavian Cocolos
It hasn’t been so much her progress as the assured nature of it. This week in Bucharest was always freighted with the possibility of a slip up, a rare error, misplaced footing. Records, particularly the barely believable ones at European Championship level that reach back over nine years, come to an end. Not yet.
No longer 18-years-old and callow, Katie Taylor in Romania has become a different boxer. Still unbeaten with championships in Norway, Poland, Denmark, Ukraine and the Netherlands all in her rear view mirror, the prized fighter, maybe even a national asset, is poised to take her sixth successive European crown.
The beauty of it is that Taylor, even in her unanimous win in yesterday’s semi-final over Bulgaria’s Denitsa Eliseeva, has been boxing with more abandonment and prerogative than she did at the London Olympics.
Liberated from the computer system that allowed miserly fighters accumulate points and equate their way to the podium with all the panache of accounting clerks, Taylor is able to compete with less restraint as dominance and accuracy, technique and tactics are now in play.
The nuanced shift in how the judges see bouts has allowed the Olympic lightweight champion become more expressive and today against the surprise French finalist Estelle Mosseley, we may see more.
As ever, though, caution determines all. Mosseley, like her defeated semi-final opponent and the boxer Taylor beat in the Olympic final, Sofya Ochigava, is a calculating counter puncher. Ranked 15 in the world, Taylor earned a win over Mosseley in last summer’s European Union final so the memories are comforting.
“I’ve added a few technical things but I also express myself a bit more,” said Taylor after the semifinal. “And I feel a bit freer. I suppose the computer has gone as well so you are not worrying about every point you take. You can enjoy it a bit more.
“She’s a counter puncher so it’s going to be a tricky fight, a tough fight. You don’t get easy ones boxing for a European final. I boxed Estelle just once at the European Union Championships last year. It was a close fight. It was a very cagey fight. I think I prefer someone who fights a little. I can definitely express myself a bit more but against these (boxers) you have to be a bit more disciplined.”
Eliseeva, as Katie’ father and coach Pete expected, came after the reigning champion, her high guard and quick little steps scurrying around the ring to quickly close off space and engage. But Taylor’s defensive choreography, her stinging jab and relentless back hand and right hooks were what set the tone and tempo. Her speed too was as ever confounding.
Midway through the second round Eliseeva through a right hand that had come from Sofia. Taylor arched backwards and watched the glove shave past her chin, the force of the miss throwing the Bulgarian into a stumble forwards onto the ropes. She turned away from Taylor, her wry smile adding some buoyancy to an otherwise singular beating.
“I don’t think there was any doubt in any round,” said Pete. “I think she won each one pretty clearly really. I’m delighted with her performance. I think she’s boxing more freely than she was in the Olympics because she hasn’t got the computers. As well as that she hasn’t got the pressure she had in the Olympics.
“There is still pressure in the European Championships and she wants to retain the title. But I think she’s boxing a little bit freer and I think everybody can see that. She beat her easier this time than she did in Castlebar. I think she (Eliseeva) has improved from a year ago, so it shows how much Katie has improved.”
That will be tested at around lunchtime in Ireland today. Clare Grace, however will not join Taylor in the finals lineup. The 20-year-old was beaten by a vastly more experienced and physical English opponent Stacey Copeland in the 69kg division but brings home a bronze medal.
From the beginning Copeland’s overwhelming aggression had Grace backing off. Her first venture into European boxing may have ended in prematurely but for her staying power and durability that kept her in the bout for four rounds.
What she will take home from the sharp learning curve is the potential to improve and at 12 years younger than Copeland, she brings home a medal, something England’s Olympic champion Nicola Adams was unable to do this week.