Katie Taylor pining for ring return as big year beckons

Olympic champion going for national title as part of busy schedule before Rio Games

Ireland’s Katie Taylor in action against Estelle Mossely in the European Games in Baku. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland’s Katie Taylor in action against Estelle Mossely in the European Games in Baku. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Katie Taylor has welcomed confirmation of her first ever Irish senior final bout after a four-an-a-half month wait for action ahead of a busy build-up to the Rio Olympics.

Taylor yesterday weighed in for the 2016 National Elite Senior Championships, which will start before the new year in a bid to avoid clashes with international action and Olympic qualifiers.

The women’s national championships were due to get underway last night at the National Stadium, but the Irish Amateur Boxing Association opted to postpone the opening bell due to the small number of entries. It will now start next weekend, along with the men’s competition.

Taylor will have her first domestic final bout on Friday November 27th after receiving a bye to the 60kg lightweight decider, where she will meet the winner of next weekend’s semi-final between 20-year-olds Kayleigh Murphy McCormack of Kilfenora and Clonmel’s Shauna O’Keeffe.

“I’m looking forward to actually boxing for a title this year – it’s been a long time coming,” said Taylor.

“It’s something I’ve wanted for years, to get a bit of competition in the national championships and I haven’t boxed since the European Games [last June] so it’ll be good to get a fight under my belt,” continued the Olympic champion.

Multi-nations

The Bray native will have a busy schedule in 2016. She is likely to compete at a multi-nations event before the first European qualifier for Rio, which takes place in Turkey in April, before the World Championships in Astana, which have been moved from a January start date to May.

“I need to stay busy and get a few fights,” said Taylor. “I definitely don’t like being out of the ring for so long.”

Taylor’s four previous Irish senior titles were all claimed on walkovers, while she opted not to compete in 2012 ahead of the London Games.

A hand injury ruled her out of the 2015 final earlier this year and, in the Olympic champion’s absence, Debbie O’Reilly of the Olympic club beat Louise Donohue of Geesala. While neither 2015 finalist has entered the 2016 tournament, the Bray woman is delighted to finally have competition in the form of McCormack or O’Keeffe.

“We’re all gearing up towards fighting and the last thing you want is girls pulling out. It can get very frustrating but it’s not going to happen this time. The two girls weighing in are well up for a fight.”

Taylor was due to compete in the 2014 Irish final against old friend and foe Alanna Audley Murphy, but the latter was forced to pull out due to a family bereavement. On other occasions, it is believed that some club coaches have been reluctant to put their boxers in against the Olympic champion, who has won five world titles at her 60kg weight class.

Eligible

Only three weights (51kg, 60kg and 75kg) are eligible to participate in female boxing at the Olympics and Taylor believes boxing chiefs should make more of an effort to encourage boxers to compete in those categories in the build-up to the Games.

“I think 60kg is a very common weight . . . with it being one of the three Olympic weights, they should all be really packed,” said the 29-year-old.

“It’s very surprising in an Olympic year that it’s not. They [her potential rivals] should be testing themselves against the best and that would be my mindset – the fact that some others don’t feel that way is very frustrating for me.”

Having last boxed in June, Taylor has faced a now regular challenge to maintain fitness through her training under father and coach Peter in Bray, and Irish interim head coach Zaur Antia in the high performance unit. “It gets harder and harder each year to make the weight,” she said. “I definitely don’t struggle as much as some others but it’s always a bit of a battle trying to get down to the 60kg,” she said.

Meanwhile, Taylor’s clubmate, Laoise Traynor, the reigning 75kg middleweight champion, will not compete in the national seniors due to a foot injury. Bantamweight champion (54kg) Michaela Walsh has opted to move down in weight and will clash at flyweight with 51kg champion Ceire Smith in the race for a place in Rio.

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