Katie Taylor secures her Rio spot in pursuit of six in a row

Kellie Harrington secures bronze medal and semi-final spot at World Championships

Ireland’s Katie Taylor is into the World Championships semi-final. Photograph: Ilyas Gun/Inpho

Ireland’s Katie Taylor is into the World Championships semi-final. Photograph: Ilyas Gun/Inpho

 

Katie Taylor has qualified for the Rio Olympic Games with a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Victoria Torres and has earned a place in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Astana. The world number one will now meet French boxer Estelle Mossely for a place in the final.

The presumed meeting with Yana Alekseevna, who defeated Taylor last month in the European Rio qualifiers, will not arise as it was Alekseevna who was beaten in her quarter-final match.

The Azeri fighter has already qualified for Rio so a rematch sometime in August remains a possibility.

Taylor’s semi-final will take place on Thursday as tomorrow is a rest day in the competition.

The Irish lightweight joins light welterweight Kellie Harrington, who also won her quarterfinal bout, in securing a medal.

“It’s definitely a big weight off my shoulders,” said Katie. “The Olympic Games have always been the most important thing for me.

“Thank god I’ve qualified. It’s a relief,” she added. “It has always been a dream of mine since London 2012. This is every boxer’s dream. Thank God I have crossed the line.”

It was another mixed bag from the defending champion. She began the fight throwing jabs from a distance, then went toe-to-toe for a while in the second round and in the process entirely out boxed her opponent.

Torres was looking for big scores and swinging large. But Taylor’s speed was too much as she scored off combinations and big lefts as she was exiting.

Second Captains

The judges had Taylor ahead on all three cards 10-9, 10-9, 10-9 in all of the four rounds, Torres scoring here and there but never quite putting her under serious pressure, never out-punching her and never really matching the tempo of her game.

“I know her ability,” said Zaur Antia, the Irish coach. “But boxing grows and we have to grow as well.”

Taylor is looking for her sixth consecutive world title, which will beat the record of Indian boxer Mary Kom with whom she currently shares the five-title mark. Kom is out of the competition and cannot get to six at these World Championships.

“I knew I was going to dig deep at some stage,” said Taylor. “The plan was to stick on the outside and box her. But sometimes I really found it hard to get my distance and just had to stand there and fight.”

Earlier Dublin’s Harrington became only the second Irish woman to medal in a World Championships when she earned a stunning win in Astana over local favourite Zarina Tsoloyeva.

The light welterweight led from the beginning to claim a unanimous 3-0 win and claim a place in the semifinals. Harrington now meets Canada’s Sara Kali, who like Harrington is unseeded in the tournament.

“I’ve been boxing 10 years now. I started when I was 16. I have never been to a World championship and I always thought ‘they are scary’,” said Harrington. “But I put the work in over the last three years and it’s paying off now.”

Grainne Walsh’s run ended against another Kazakhstan boxer when the ring doctor called a halt to her bout in the second round. The welterweight received attention in the first round when she caught a shot from Valentina Khalzova and her nose began to bleed.

Early into the second the doctor was again called by the referee and it was decided the 20-year-old should not continue and the fight was stopped.

Harrington, who is from Portland Row in Dublin 1 and does her boxing in Glasnevin BC, now joins Taylor as the only Irish boxer to have reached a women’s World Championship semi-final and is guaranteed at least bronze medal.

Growing in confidence fight by fight she won all four rounds against Tsoloyeva with an intelligent and disciplined performance.

“She was brilliant. It’s given us all belief now,” said Irish coach Eddie Bolger.

Harrington stuck with her athletic style moving and using the ring and scoring in fast strikes. Staying away from going toe to toe, her scoring and high work rate quickly found favour with the judges. All three awarded her the first round 10-9.

That set the trend for the fight, Harrington working hard to use the ring and shaping the bout the way she wanted, her back hand regularly coming in and scoring clean. The second and third rounds were scored in the same way and the fight was largely won before the fourth round began.

“When I was coming back to the corner the two of them were saying you need to work,” said Harrington. “You need to work. I felt in control but she didn’t stop coming. It was a tough fight.

“Each time I went back the reminded me of how good I was just in case...you know in your head it’s very easy when you are in there to think ‘oh I’ve gone behind now’. When you have good coaches in your corner saying you’re great that will keep you fighting harder.”

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