Taylor steps back into the ring for four-fight schedule


BOXING:Olympic champion Katie Taylor will have four competitive fights in Ireland between February 24th and March 22nd. The Bray lightweight has agreed two bouts in the Grand Canal Theatre (February 24th and March 22nd) promoted by Brian Peters and two more fights in an official international match between Ireland and Russia (March 17th and 18th).

It means the Bray boxer will have three fights in just six days between St Patrick’s Day and March 22nd. But that shouldn’t present any problems as the 26-year-old fought her three Olympic fights over just four days of competition in London last summer.

On August 6th, she beat Britain’s Natasha Jonas, having received a bye in the first round. A 17-9 win over Mavzuna Choreiva followed on August 8th before the final against Sofya Ochigava on August 9th.

All of the Irish Olympic medal winners from London 2012, John Joe Nevin, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes, will compete in the officially sanctioned event against the Russians, which will take place in Belfast on St Patrick’s Day and Dublin the following night.

The international meeting with Russia is new territory for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) as the event is taking place with outside promoter Platinum One. It will be a seven bout card with Taylor at the top of the bill.

It is likely that the Olympic gold medallist, who entered 2013 as the world number one for the seventh straight year, will move up from her normal lightweight 60kg division to the 64kg class as Ochigava will not be part of the Russian team travelling to Dublin and Belfast.

Taylor has beaten the Russian southpaw in the last three ranking tournaments, the 2011 European Championships final, the 2012 AIBA World Championships final and the 2012 Olympic final. Another factor that has been considered is that Ochigava is likely to be in Ireland later this year for the women’s European Championships, which have yet to be officially ratified by the governing European body.

Russian fighter

The principle Russian fighter in the 64kg class is Anastasia Belyakova, who is currently ranked fifth in the world, while Ochigava is ranked second to Taylor in the 60kg division. It is not considered a problem for the Bray orthodox to move up a weight category as she often spars against heavier males as part of her routine.

There is another Russian boxer in the 64kg weight division ranked 10th in the world, Daria Abramova, although, given Taylor won the 2012 award for the best pound-for-pound female boxer in the world, that would seem an uneven match up. No opponent has been named for the two fights in the Grand Canal theatre, the first of which was sold out (2,000 seats) on the opening day of ticket sales. The difficulty in finding opponents stems from both the European Championships being staged this autumn in Ireland and Taylor’s soaring reputation.

The organisers are currently looking for an American opponent and hope to have a name at the end of this week or early next week. There are two US fighters in the 60kg and 64kg divisions. Queen Underwood, who Taylor has beaten before, is currently ranked 38th in the world rankings at 60kg, while Joslin Mayer is rated as the best in the world at 64kg. She did not compete in the Olympic Games as there were only three weight categories fly, light and middleweight in the schedule.

European Champion Joe Ward has not been approached to take part in the match against Russia. The teenager, who controversially missed out on last year’s Olympic Games, is fighting in the professional WSB Series. Ward beat Kenny Egan in last year’s Irish Senior Championships to claim the light heavyweight title and also beat Russia’s Olympic gold medallist Egor Mekhontsev 20-14 in a tournament prior to London last March.

Katie Taylor Fight schedule

February 24th - Grand Canal Theatre (opponent TBA)

March 17th - Odyssey Arena, Belfast (v Russia opponent TBA)

March 18th - Dublin (v Russia opponent TBA)

March 22nd – Grand Canal Theatre (opponent TBA)

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