Katie Taylor ready to make another piece of boxing history

Olympic champion will contest her first National Championship fight against Shauna O’Keeffe

Katie Taylor has won four Irish titles in previous years, all were secured on walkovers and she has never had to compete in the ring for the title.

Katie Taylor has won four Irish titles in previous years, all were secured on walkovers and she has never had to compete in the ring for the title.

 

More than three years after winning the gold medal in the London Olympic Games, Katie Taylor’s impact on women’s boxing has finally taken effect. On Friday night she fights for the first time in her career for an Irish title in the National Stadium. It has taken that long for credible boxers to filter through the system.

The European, World and Olympic champion meets Tipperary’s Shauna O’Keeffe for the vacant Irish lightweight belt. While Taylor, who was injured last year, has won four Irish titles in previous years, she has never had to compete in the ring, instead receiving walkovers.

However, this year three boxers entered the competition with O’Keeffe, who boxes out of the Clonmel BC, beating Clare’s Kayleigh Murrihy-McCormack on a unanimous decision in last Friday’s eliminator to earn the right to fight Taylor.

And in a change from previous bouts, her father and coach Pete will not be in the corner. Instead interim Irish coach Zaur Antia and Taylor’s brother Lee, who is a coach in their club in Bray, will look after the bout.

“I’m taking a break from the corner. After years it can be stressful watching your daughter fight,” said Pete. “But I’ll be there in the crowd in the front so . . . we are trying new things at the moment so we’ll see how it goes this time.

“Fair play to the two girls who entered the lightweight,” added Pete. “They are showing ambition and once they get into the ring it is a 50-50 fight.”

While Taylor has boxed in a number of shows around the country and on the undercard to male professional world championship bout involving Bernard Dunne, her contests have essentially been exhibitions or ‘friendly’ bouts.

The 21-year-old southpaw O’Keeffe, is the current Irish Intermediate champion and will have Martin Fennessey and Robert Scanlon working her corner. It will come as given to them that Taylor, who will defend her Olympic gold at Rio next August, is going in as overwhelming favourite.

Second Captains

But O’Keefe enters the bout with a positive mind set and determined to learn from the experience if not cause what would constitute as one of the biggest upsets in the history of Irish sport.

While the night will be dominated by Taylor’s inclusion, the flyweight final where Ceire Smith meets Michaela Walsh is a highly anticipated pairing. Both boxers have excellent credentials with Ceire Smith earning the win of her career earlier this year, when she beat current American World Champion Marlen Esparza on a split decision in the Feliks Stamm Memorial in Warsaw.

Now, of course, Esparza is under the wing of Billy Walsh, who left Irish boxing last month to take up a position with USA Boxing as head Coach of their women’s programme. Walsh brings her own laurels into the final and arrives from Belfast as the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

More than three years after winning the gold medal in the London Olympic Games, Katie Taylor’s impact on women’s boxing has finally taken effect. On Friday night she fights for the first time in her career for an Irish title in the National Stadium. It has taken that long for credible boxers to filter through the system.

The European, World and Olympic champion meets Tipperary’s Shauna O’Keeffe for the vacant Irish lightweight belt. While Taylor, who was injured last year, has won four Irish titles in previous years, she has never had to compete in the ring, instead receiving walkovers.

However, this year three boxers entered the competition with O’Keeffe, who boxes out of the Clonmel BC, beating Clare’s Kayleigh Murrihy-McCormack on a unanimous decision in last Friday’s eliminator to earn the right to fight Taylor.

And in a change from previous bouts, her father and coach Pete will not be in the corner. Instead interim Irish coach Zaur Antia and Taylor’s brother Lee, who is a coach in their club in Bray, will look after the bout.

“I’m taking a break from the corner. After years it can be stressful watching your daughter fight,” said Pete. “But I’ll be there in the crowd in the front so . . . we are trying new things at the moment so we’ll see how it goes this time.

“Fair play to the two girls who entered the lightweight,” added Pete. “They are showing ambition and once they get into the ring it is a 50-50 fight.”

While Taylor has boxed in a number of shows around the country and on the undercard to male professional world championship bout involving Bernard Dunne, her contests have essentially been exhibitions or ‘friendly’ bouts.

The 21-year-old southpaw O’Keeffe, is the current Irish Intermediate champion and will have Martin Fennessey and Robert Scanlon working her corner. It will come as given to them that Taylor, who will defend her Olympic gold at Rio next August, is going in as overwhelming favourite.

But O’Keefe enters the bout with a positive mind set and determined to learn from the experience if not cause what would constitute as one of the biggest upsets in the history of Irish sport.

While the night will be dominated by Taylor’s inclusion, the flyweight final where Ceire Smith meets Michaela Walsh is a highly anticipated pairing. Both boxers have excellent credentials with Ceire Smith earning the win of her career earlier this year, when she beat current American World Champion Marlen Esparza on a split decision in the Feliks Stamm Memorial in Warsaw.

Now, of course, Esparza is under the wing of Billy Walsh, who left Irish boxing last month to take up a position with USA Boxing as head Coach of their women’s programme. Walsh brings her own laurels into the final and arrives from Belfast as the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

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