Taylor lays down golden marker
BOXING:EVERY GESTURE, every movement of Katie Taylor caught the eye yesterday. From the moment her red vest flashed up on the monitors and she emerged from the tunnel until her father Peter kissed her forehead at the end of a stunning Olympic debut, Taylor was the commanding presence, the performer who held the gaze of 10,000 fans from the moment she stepped into view. Naturally and irredeemably Taylor has been sprinkled with stardust.
Yesterday she was given the platform that she had longed for but was denied when boxing was not included in the schedule for the Beijing Games. That disappointment has made her London 2012 visit more urgent. The lightweight champion has always seen these Olympics as a stage to evangelise women’s boxing, to show the doubters that it is possible for a woman to take thousands in her grasp and hold them there captivated and wanting more.
Even British opponent Natasha Jonas graciously fell under the Taylor spell. The Liverpool woman fought the best fight she could but there was little headway to be made against the speed and explosive power of the four-times World Champion.
“I noticed that her pace had slowed down,” said Jonas of the final round. “But to be fair her slow pace is still a fast pace. I could have thrown a kitchen sink at her. I could have driven a bus at her and it wouldn’t have worked.”
Few have witnessed an atmosphere like it in amateur boxing and it was all because of the Irish athlete who has balanced poise and grace with a wrecking ball game.
“She fights like a man,” said a British colleague after the 26-15 win. The comparison was well meant, an unadorned, baldly stated fact that Taylor’s general movement and hand speed was inherently different to all of the other women in the draw.
Her father Pete was less enamoured with the bronze medal win but content with the first act and a performance that arrived after having had no sparring. The cobwebs have been blown away. But Pete, a former Irish champion, never lets his standards slip.
“She needed that one fight just to get rid of the nerves. We’ve had a long wait and she’s not sparred for 11 days so . . . you’ve got to kind of grow into a tournament. And now she’s in. She’s up and running and she’s flying now. She’s 60 per cent there. Next time she’ll be 80 per cent. And in the final she’ll be 100 per cent.”
Taylor’s first round was modest enough and cautiously approached. She gave hints of what was to come but Jonas, ranked seven in the world, emerged just 5-2 behind. The second round was Taylor’s weakest of the four and she was caught with a couple of Jonas backhands, which gave the British woman some hope, her tempo visibly rising. The round was scored 5-5 which left Taylor 10-7 ahead with four minutes remaining.
The third round won the fight and the crowd. Stronger and banging her right hand through the Jonas defence, the British woman was given a standing count to a cacophony of booing. Taylor was beating Jonas to the punch every time and when her combinations began to land Jonas seemed hopelessly vulnerable.