Taylor Made Gold
IT WAS as if it was written in scripture: just as promised, Katie Taylor has become the fiercest angel of the boxing world. Some time after 5pm yesterday afternoon, the Irish woman boxed her way to the Olympic gold medal that has occupied her dreams for over a decade and also into the hearts of tough ring men who thought they had seen it all.
The history of boxing is like a battered suitcase crammed with mementoes and heartbreaking letters and shady misdeeds and into that great collection comes this beautiful, unforgettable moment of perfection.
“I wanted to shock the world,” Katie Taylor would say later, when she had that medal safely around her neck. And if she was invoking one of the most famous of all boxing phrases, evoking the words of Muhammad Ali when he knocked Sonny Liston out to become champion of the world over 40 years ago, then it was appropriate.
The Irish woman made her own history here. It wasn’t just that she has brought Ireland’s Olympic gold medals to nine or landed the country’s first boxing gold since Michael Carruth had his moment exactly 20 years before. More than that, Taylor’s luminosity – her technical brilliance and her sinewy grace and that controlled fierceness of hers – has given women’s boxing the champion and star it needed.
The sport that was blacklisted and banned for decades had in this, Katie Taylor’s most famous fight, the most wonderful and eloquent champion imaginable.
“From the minute I started boxing as a 10-year-old I dreamed of being an Olympic champion,” she explained as Irish fans went singing into the evening. “From then on, Dad pushed me at home. It was step by step. I remember boxing against Alanna [Audley, now Murphy], one of my best friends, in the first ever women’s fight in the National Stadium and that was a historic moment. It has been a long way from there to being Olympic champion. An unbelievable journey.”
And this was not the most comfortable fight of a career which has seen her emerge as a phenomenon in the fledgling, uncertain field of women’s boxing.
Her Russian opponent, Sofya Ochigava, matched her for speed and guile through the first and second rounds and it took a masterful two minutes from Taylor in the third period to secure the gold position. It was feral more than anything, with the fighters circling each other warily and then closing in for lightning fast exchanges before parting again.