Katie Taylor hopes to spar with southpaw Sofya Ochigava

Defiant champion plans to prepare for next meeting with Alekseevna

In more a case of being intelligent about how to improve over the next four weeks than a crisis of confidence, Katie Taylor has requested that Russia's Sofya Ochigava come to Ireland for sparring before the World Championships begin next month in Kazakhstan.

Ochigava is the southpaw Taylor beat in the final of the London 2012 Olympic Games, one characterised as a technical and cagey fight between a right-handed boxer, Taylor, and at the time the best left hander in the world.

It was a southpaw Taylor lost to for the first time in five years, at the recent Olympic Qualifying tournament in Turkey, when Yana Alekseevna won on a unanimous decision in the semi-final, denying the Irish World and Olympic Champion an automatic place in the Rio Olympic Games in August.

The Azeri boxer’s long reach and counter punching, a tactic Taylor was aware of before going into the ring, has ensured the Irish boxer move quickly to invest in how to compete more effectively against that style of opposition in Astana next month.


Taylor needs a semi-final place to ensure her place in Rio and a chance to defend her Olympic title.

“Yeah it’s very, very similar. I think they all model themselves on Ochigava those southpaws,” said Taylor.

‘Bit of sparring’

“We are hoping to get Ochigava over for a bit of sparring in the next few weeks. We’ve been in touch with her and her coach. It would be great to get a bit of sparring with her.

“We’ve made that request. I don’t know if Ochigava is going to the World Championships. Apparently she is going pro but I’m not sure. Obviously if she’s going to the World Championships I won’t be bringing her over so . . . but it would be great to get that quality of sparring in.”

The world number one will travel to Astana a week before the World Championships begin on May 19th knowing that she has not lost a bout at world level since the quarter-finals of the 2005 World Championships in Podolsk, Russia. Kang Kum-Hui remains the only boxer to have beaten her at the World Championships.

While the 29-year-old regularly practices against southpaws, a few days with a boxer of Ochigava’s quality would more closely mirror what she will face if she is drawn against Alekseevna again.

That scenario is likely, although at what stage in the World Championships is still open to how the organisers will structure the draw in Astana. At the last World Championships there was no seeding and Taylor was scheduled to meet Ochigava in the quarter-final. On that occasion the Russian withdrew after injuring her leg.

“I think in some ways it (defeat) will take the pressure off me a small bit,” she said. “I’ve analysed it a lot and I know what I need to work on. The mistakes I was making in that fight . . . I sat down and talked about it with Zaur (Antia, Irish coach).

“I’m obviously very disappointed. At the time it was hard to take but I had to pick myself up for the next fight for the bronze medal match, the box-off. But it’s a good time for it to happen and I’ve had losses in the past and I’ve always come back stronger from those losses.

“I’ve always learned from them and this one is going to be no different.”

What the defeat has done is explode people’s perceptions about her ability to turn up and come home with gold medals. That certainty no longer exists.

“People have the perception that it’s easy for me going into these competitions, it’s a given that I qualify,” she says.

‘Very consistent’

“I suppose people realise now that it’s not as easy as it looks. I have been very consistent over the past few years but it’s always a challenge to stay at the top. One loss in five years isn’t bad. But I think I can go another five years undefeated.”

Back to her old self already. Taylor was speaking at the launch of Procter and Gamble Thank You Mum campaign.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times