'Perfect fight' ends with European title

 

The Irish Times/Irish Sports Council sportswoman of the month (June): Boxer Katie Taylor

WITH 11 major international titles since 2005 it’s getting to the stage where it must feel strange for Katie Taylor when there’s no welcoming party awaiting her at Dublin Airport when she returns from a trip abroad.

There was another one there to greet her last month when she brought home the latest gold medal in her extraordinary collection, this time from the European Union championships in Poland where she won her fourth successive title. Laoise Traynor (welterweight) and Lauragh O’Neill (light-heavyweight) also came home with medals after reaching the semi-finals of their divisions.

Taylor’s victory over Poland’s Karolina Graczyk in the 60kg final was her 38th in a row in major championships, adding to the World and European lightweight titles she currently holds.

In the first of four bouts in five days, our two-time sportswoman of the year opened in Poland with an 11-6 win over Bulgarian Denista Eliseeva, the woman who had controversially beaten Taylor at the Strandja Multi-Nations in Bulgaria last February.

Next, she had a comfortable 16-5 victory over Italy’s Marzia Davide, before defeating English champion Chantelle Cameron 28-10 in the semi-finals.

By her own reckoning, Taylor “boxed the perfect fight in the final”, relentlessly building up the points against Graczyk – she was 5-1 up after the first round, 10-3 after the second, 17-6 after the third, finishing up with a 25-9 victory. Her points tally, then, in four bouts was 80, with just 30 conceded.

Taylor, 25 last month, is already back in training, her next target an unprecedented five-in-a-row at the European Championships in Rotterdam in October.

After that, her focus will switch to April’s World Championships in China which, she says, will be the biggest tournament of her career so far.

The event doubles as the only qualifier for London 2012, so while there tends to be an assumption, because of her status in her sport, that Taylor will be a definite for those Olympic Games, she’s taking nothing for granted. One off-day in China and her 2012 dream could evaporate.

“Qualifying for the Olympics is my ultimate goal and there’s no doubt that the next World Championships will be the biggest tournament of my life,” she said. “I won gold at the World Championships in China a few years ago, the judging was very fair at that tournament and I’m confident that it will be the same next time.”

For now, Taylor collects her seventh monthly award in as many years for her European Union Championship success.

Monthly awards so far

(This year’s awards cover Dec 2010 to Nov 2011)

December

Fionnuala Britton(Athletics)

The Wicklow runner just missed out on a medal at the European Cross Country Championships, finishing fourth but given the same time as the runner in third.

January

Leona Maguire(Golf)

The 16-year-old won the Portuguese Amateur Open Championship, which featured over 80 of Europe’s leading amateurs, by a remarkable 15 strokes.

February

Fiona Coghlan(Rugby)

Coghlan captained Ireland to Six Nations’ victories over Italy and Scotland and just a two point defeat to France in February. The team, without several of its most experienced players, went on to finish third in the table.

March

Lisa Maguire(Golf)

Lisa followed up her twin Leona’s January success by winning the Spanish International Amateur Championship, a victory that lifted her in to the top 10 of the world rankings.

April

Nina Carberry(Horse racing).

Carberry became only the second woman to win the Irish Grand National when she rode Organisedconfusion to victory at Fairyhouse.

May

Jenny Egan(Canoeing)

The Salmon Leap canoeist took silver at the World Cup Two in the Czech Republic, a year after becoming the first Irish canoeist to medal at this level.