Olympic boxing: France wins title in Katie Taylor’s division

Estelle Mossely takes light middleweight gold as Billy Walsh boxer fires up for final

 Estelle Mossely of France: She  has replaced Katie Taylor as light middleweight Olympic champion after a split-decision win over Junhua Yin of China. Photograph: Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA

Estelle Mossely of France: She has replaced Katie Taylor as light middleweight Olympic champion after a split-decision win over Junhua Yin of China. Photograph: Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA

 

Four years on, there is still a tricolour paraded around the boxing arena after gold medal fight of the women’s light middleweight division. But this time it the colours of France and it is Estelle Mossely, who has replaced Katie Taylor as Olympic champion after a split-decision win over Junhua Yin of China.

It was comforting to think, after Michael Conlon’s rage against the perceived tyranny in amateur boxing, that the sport just folded its tent. It is tempting to believe that the AIBA and the other nations heard Ireland’s howl of outrage and thought about things and had the good manners to fold the tent.

Of course, the truth is, the wider world couldn’t give a hoot about what the Irish think about boxing. They just want their fighters to win. So on another hot, sunny afternoon, the arena is louder and more full than it has been all week. The French fans are out in force to see Mossely, who has been the rising star of the women’s sport for some time. And it is hard to watch the fight without imagining Taylor there.

In a curious quirk of scheduling, American middleweight sensation Claressa Shields is in the ring just before the light middleweight final. Of all the boxer’s here in Rio, nobody holds the same potential as Shields. She is 21 years old and her record is 75-1 and she will, bearing some kind of personal calamity, win her second gold medal here on Sunday.

Exceptional hand speed

Billy WalshKazakhstan

“We will do everything possible to hold onto her. It would be fantastic for the programme and for USA boxing. She is young. She is 21 but she is a leader of the team. It’s great to have her in your corner.”

Shields’s is one of those redemption stories upon which sports thrives. Her childhood gave her every opportunity not to be here: born in 1995, in the midst of the Clintonian boom in Flint, Michigan, one of those American cities heading irretrievably downwards.

The bare outlines of Shields’s story are extremely bleak and dark: she endured a badly abusive and deprived childhood and ended up, at times, as a primary carer for her siblings. Somehow she came through that and she used boxing, the old 20th century working-class solution to a path out, to grab some kind of future since after she started fighting at 11.

Boxing Ireland

Colorado

“There’s an old saying: if you don’t believe it, you are probably right,” he tells the US media in his moseying Wexford accent.

Down the line, Shields is being pressed as to what she will do after the Olympics. Pro boxing is calling out. The lucrative world of MMA is bound to be looking at her. She doesn’t know. For now, she just wants to set an example for others who are struggling.

“I just want people to know you make your own decisions in your life. It depends on your decisions and what you want to be and growing up in Flint, there was so much darkness around me but I still had a few good people around me.”

Her father, absent for much of her childhood, is in the auditorium to support her.

“You know, my first fight was a little weird. I kept hearing him yell at me . . . For this fight I couldn’t hear him. I was kind of in my zone.”

On Sunday, Shields will probably crown a highly successful Olympics for Walsh and US boxing. It was hard to imagine any of this when Taylor’s arm was raised as Olympic champion four years ago. This has been a tough, tough week for Irish boxing but make no mistake: the medals are still being won and the cheering is as loud as ever.

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