Taylor worth her weight in gold after emotional final
WOMEN'S BOXING LIGHTWEIGHT FINAL:IT WAS how she thought it was going to be. Katie Taylor on the podium, Katie Taylor with her hands in the air, Katie Taylor hearing the national anthem. When she was at school in Bray, said her father Pete, the school report predicted Katie would be the next Sonia O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan, sitting at the other end of the table at the media conference in the ExCel Arena as Ireland’s chef de mission, smiled.
“She was my hero when I was a kid,” said Katie looking across.
Perhaps O’Sullivan was thinking of the gold that eluded her. But more than that she understands the sweat that goes into such lofty ambitions as those of Taylor. Yesterday was no different and if anyone had expected an all-action bout like Taylor’s first one against Natasha Jonas they were sorely disappointed.
Deflated and doleful, Taylor’s Russian opponent, Sofya Ochigava, stood on the silver podium after the fight knowing that with a little luck, and perhaps some more aggression, she could have turned almost 10,000 Irish fans into simpering losers. Her pre-fight comments accusing the referees of favouring Taylor and that she was always 10 points down going into a fight with her were swimming in her head.
The Olympic final will be remembered for many things. It was laden with emotion. It was an historic first ever lightweight final. It was the fight that would define Taylor’s career. It was also very, very close.
Pete Taylor, Katie’s father and coach, had predicted the tempo and style from the moment he knew the two would meet. It was a technical fight and as soon as the bell rang and the two were alone in the ring they faced each other like two fencers. Taylor was springing to and fro on her toes, Ochigava backing off but never in retreat. Sizing each other up. Taylor, inevitably, would spring forward to force a violent exchange and retreat.
It was cagey and it was knife edge and after the first half of the final Taylor found herself having to chase the Russian counter-puncher.
The first round finished 2-2. But at the end of the second and after Katie was caught with a left and right hook, the Russian took the lead and led the fight 4-3.
But there was no panic, no change of tactics. The tempo from Taylor visibly elevated and she became more aggressive with her back hand. But Ochigava, tough and resilient, refused to back down or concede anything.
The third round is the one where Taylor scored best in her two previous fights and in yesterday’s Olympic final that was no different. From 4-3 down Taylor’s elevation of her aggression levels along with her constant jabbing and right hand, which brought her into greater danger, delivered scores and she critically took the lead for the first time.