Katie Taylor expects a more aggressive approach from Bulgarian Denista Eliseeva

Bulgarian boxer controversially beat the Olympic champion in 2011

Katie Taylor: fights Bulgarian Denista Eliseeva, who controversially beat her on home soil in 2011.

Katie Taylor: fights Bulgarian Denista Eliseeva, who controversially beat her on home soil in 2011.

 

When Denista Eliseeva climbed out of the ring after a scrap of a fight against the tough Polish boxer Karolina Michalczuk on Wednesday, she was still dripping sweat, the blue tape around her knuckles wringing wet. She took a deep breath and opened her hands.

Katie Taylor hadn’t yet beaten Romania’s Lavinia Mera but there was an air of inevitability about the outcome. You may fight Katie Taylor in the semi-final, Eliseeva was told. She smiled and opened her hands even wider.

“Yes, it’s fine,” she said. “I’m very happy. I like to play with Katie. She is a very good boxer. But I think I can play very good with her. She’s a star. It will be difficult. But I believe.”

The Bulgarian lightweight knows more about Taylor than most in Bucharest and she knows a place in the European finals will hinge on her causing the biggest upset since Taylor’s career at this level took off in 2005 in Tonsberg, Norway as an 18-year-old on her way towards beating Finland’s Eva Wahlstrom in the final.

Eliseeva will be hoping for some luck, maybe that Taylor doesn’t perform as well as she did against Mera. But Taylor, too, has relied on good fortune and the semi-final of her first European win went to a count back against the Turkish boxer Gulsum Tartar.

That first semi-final, decided on the old scoring system of accumulated points, ended at 12-12. But the countback (all of the scores from all of the judges are added up) favoured the teenage Irish fighter. A new face had arrived on the scene.

‘Great rivalry’

“I’m a lot better now. Back then I was a very young boxer. I think I was only 18 or 19 years old. It’s just experience and . . . I’m a lot smarter now and also more mature.”

Eliseeva has in the past been reluctant to come out and fight because of her style. Some boxers invite their opponent’s onto them and try to score off them by counter-punching.

Everyone has their preferences, south paws, orthodox, brawlers, counter-punchers and Taylor’s most recent memory of Eliseeva when they met in Castlebar last year is of a reluctant fighter, although her father and coach Pete says she has changed her style.

“From Bulgaria, ugh . . . I don’t enjoy boxing her to be honest,” says Katie. “I fought her in Castlebar, yeah thanks for reminding me. She broke her wrist that time. We’ve boxed each other so many times. She’s a very, very negative boxer . . .”

Eliseeva’s win over Taylor in the final of the Strandja multi-nations tournament in Pazardjik, Bulgaria is now mythical. A home town decision confounded everyone including the referee, who briefly held up Taylor’s hand as the winner. But the more recent meeting in The Royal Theatre in 2013 had Taylor the outright 25-8 winner, Eliseeva’s defeat compounded by also fracturing her hand. She is, though, the last boxer to have beaten the Irish lightweight.

“She has a win over me,” says Taylor unperturbed. “She seems to be always in the medal stages doesn’t she? She’s always very consistent.”

But as the Irish champion consistently tweaks her style and changes tactics to suit opponents the Bulgarian has also made fundamental adjustments and Katie’s view of the negative Eliseeva maybe challenged today by a more aggressive opponent, who went toe to toe with Poland’s Michalczuk in the quarter-final.

‘Different fight’

“Very few boxers beat her. Katie is really the only one who beats her regularly, her and probably (Sofya) Ochigava. The decision (against Katie)? I mean she boxed for Bulgaria and it wasn’t her who made the decision. It wasn’t her fault they made that decision.”

Taylor has driven the Irish success for years but is also joined by Clare Grace in today’s semi-final line-up in the 69kg division. The Callan BC fighter from Kilkenny faces Stacey Copeland, a former England Under-21 footballer.

Copeland is squat and is a close in fighter, while Grace had recent success in a Four Nations tournament in Germany, where she won the silver medal. It is new territory for both Copeland and the 20-year-old Irish welterweight, who Irish coach Gerry Storey says can hit hard.

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