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‘It doesn’t bother me’: Taylor reacts after Sanchez fails to make weight

Fight will still go ahead and Irish Olympic champion has chance to claim the WBA belt

Katie Taylor during public workout ahead of her fight with Anahi Esther Sanchez, who surrendered her WBA belt after failing to make the weight. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters
Katie Taylor and Anahi Esther Sanchez during the weigh-in. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Argentina’s Anahi Esther Sanchez yesterday surrendered her WBA lightweight belt on the scales ahead of tonight’s world-title bout against Katie Taylor in Cardiff.

The fight – an undercard bout in support of Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against Carlos Takam – will still proceed, but honours will only be on the line for former Olympic champion Taylor at the Principality Stadium.

Having weighed in one pound over the 135lb lightweight limit, 26-year-old Sanchez was given two hours to lose the excess weight, but by around 4pm it is understood that she had only managed to cut down to 135.6lbs.

Taylor had earlier clocked in at 134lbs 8oz meaning the challenger is still eligible to claim the WBA belt, but Sanchez’s reign is most definitely over. Even if the Buenos Aires native was to surprisingly defy her 12/1 underdog odds with an unlikely victory she will retain the now vacant title.

It is not certain whether Sanchez had to forfeit a portion of her purse as is common after such mishaps, but her opponent was nonplussed about such considerations.

“It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m just completely focused on my performance and I made the weight,” said a sanguine Taylor on her opponent’s weight woes. “My mind is just purely on this fight.”

It was a fitting sound-bite in the sense that anything other than a Taylor victory tonight appears to be inconceivable.

The former Olympic champion is a money-on 1/33 favourite with the bookies to emerge victorious over a two-weight world champion who has far more professional experience.

Sanchez’s 17-2 record may dwarf Taylor’s 6-0 paid slate, but the Argentine did not compete at the elite amateur level where the Irishwoman previously claimed five world golds.

Taylor has maintained that she anticipates a tough battle, however.

Toughest fight

“It is going to be my toughest fight to date,” said 31-year-old. “Sanchez is very strong and durable, very aggressive, it is going to make for an exciting fight, I think . . . I am prepared for a tough, 10-round battle if it is going to go that way,” added Taylor.

Sanchez’s team are believed to have blamed a miscalibrated scales in her Cardiff hotel on her weight miss. Whatever led to the error, the plot twist certainly contradicted the Argentine’s assertion earlier this week that she has “come well-prepared”.

Still, the former champion insisted that she is ready to record her first European victory, having suffered both of her career losses on previous trips across the Atlantic.

“I’m prepared not just for one style,” said Sanchez at Thursday’s press conference. “I can change my style if necessary and Katie needs to show, if she wants the belt, she has to be the aggressive one . . . My prediction is that it will go the distance.”

Should Taylor be forced to go 10 rounds – the female championship distance over two-minute rounds – for the first time, her coach Ross Enamait is confident that the Bray woman is more than prepared having come through an 11-week training camp at his Connecticut base where she regularly sparred three-minute rounds against male gym-mates.

“She’s sparring with guys that have 10-times the ability of anyone she’s probably going to face,” said the trainer, who dismissed the notion that Sanchez is the more experienced of the two fighters.

Not concerned

“I’m not really concerned about what Sanchez is going to do as far as veteran tactics go – she’s only 26, she turned pro in late 2013,” he said.

“Katie’s five years older and has 10 times the amount of fights and actual ring time, so I wouldn’t be too worried.

“Even size-wise Katie is physically bigger and stronger.”

The latter point may be slightly nullified by Sanchez coming in heavy, but Taylor’s manager Brian Peters and promoter Eddie Hearn are concerned only by the weight of expectation on the decorated amateur’s shoulders.

As a female fighter in a strand of the sport that is relatively young – and having stormed past inferior opposition to build a 6-0 record – Taylor has a lot to do in terms of trumping general expectations.

A crowd of over 70,000 will be present in Cardiff tonight for what Hearn claims will be “the biggest indoor boxing event of all-time” and clearly the promoter hopes to see Taylor eventually transcend the sport of boxing in the same way headliner Joshua has.

“It is a lot more difficult [for Taylor] ,” claimed Hearn. “She always has to do more to get the recognition because she is battling against so many other things, whether that is perception or opportunity.

“Everyone expects her to be world champion.”