Katie Taylor wins European final

Katie Taylor duly achieved her latest ambition – winning a Fifth in a Row European 60 kg Lightweight title before a large crowd at the TopSport centrum in Rotterdam Suid and at the same time ‘avenging’ that March 2010 ‘defeat’ in Ústí nad Labem . There was no doubting Taylor’s superiority on Saturday night for she led from start to finish and was rarely troubled as she came out on top 10-5 after four 2 minute rounds.

The rest of the Irish squad and Management were ‘singing’ her to victory right from the off and indeed in the competitors stand it was noticeable that there was pretty vociferous support for the Irish woman, from not only the Irish team and fans but also from other nationalities most notably the Dutch, the Italians ,the French and the British.

Massive Russian banners which were ‘at the ready’ to salute Ochigava as they had done their champions from earlier finals, were never to be seen since Taylor had effectively silenced not only Russian team captain Ochigava but also her supporters. Fair dues to Ochigava on this occasion. She accepted her defeat gracefully though she was obviously very disappointed.

In many respects it was a “cat and mouse” affair as Ochigava constantly tried to get Taylor to ‘mix it’ but the Bray native was having none of it preferring to pick her opponent off when an opportunity arose. From an early stage it was clear it was going to be Taylor’s night hard though Ochigava tried. But when the need arose Taylor too showed she was willing and able to mix it with the best. .

The end of round one came with Taylor having taken a 1-0 lead with a flashing right early in the proceedings. Round two saw more positive action as Taylor extended that lead to 4-1. Round three was more evenly balanced, both boxers scoring an additional two points each but the fourth and final frame , saw Taylor add another 4 to Ochigava’s 2. It was Taylor’s fifth win in six days and yet she looked remarkably fresh and relaxed at the end of a hectic week.

Even before the bout, Taylor looked more relaxed than I have ever seen her – she has grown much more confident as time has passed yet is never ‘over confident’ but is always 100% plus focused on the job in hand. The downside of this excellent victory of course is that there will still be those ‘foolish fans’ (alas far too many) who think she has only to turn up in London to collect the Gold.

That is doing Team Taylor no good ; they know only too well that there are many boxers out there who are not even known about yet (by the Irish public) from China, from India,and from former Russian Republics not to mention Europeans who fought at a different weight this time round such as Turkey’s Gulsum Tatar and Natasha Jonas of Great Britain. ‘Across the pond’ there awaits the ever improving Queen Underwood. It may well be a ‘long way to Tipperary’ but it is an even longer ‘road to London Town’.

A ‘particularly happy’ Katie Taylor had this to say later :

“Sofya is one of the best opponents I have ever met and I’m absolutely thrilled with the win. I can’t believe it really. I would like to thank my dad and coaches and the entire Irish squad for all their fantastic support all week”

Irish Team manager Anna Moore told me she too was thrilled at Taylor’s performance.

“Katie is boxing at another level than what she was at last year and she was absolutely exceptional. The entire squad are on a high after this win and we’re absolutely thrilled”.

Katie Taylor has now won three World, five European and four European Union titles – all in-a-row. A fantastic achievement by any standards and surely this title must ‘guarantee’ her the Irish Times-Irish Sports Council’s Sportswoman of the Year award for 2011? She and the rest of the Irish team and Management are due to arrive at Dublin Airport’s Terminal Two this (Sunday) evening at 9.20pm. In Rotterdam on Saturday night, you could see the pride the younger girls in the Irish team like Michaela Walsh, Ceire Smith and Katie Rowland ,and the others, had for their idol and role model.

A pretty good week for the Irish team overall but if the younger members of the team are to follow in Taylor’s footsteps then the IABA needs to urgently find adequate and proper funding to support the stars of the future. Even allowing for the fact that the European Youth championships in Russia may have been fixed late in the day the fact remains that at very least the medal winners from the 2010 Europeans in Calais should have been sent to Orenburg.

A good example here is that the silver medal winner in Orenburg – GB’s excellent prospect Sarah Rostron, was subsequently defeated by Rowland in Cambridge after an excellent performance from both. TODAY is a good day to start that planning since the IABA’s Annual Congress takes place in Donegal where high on the agenda should be the question of proper funding for the Women’s team, the appointment of another one or two women coaches and a place on the Executive Committee for someone of the stature of Anna Moore, Anja Norman,Sadie Duffy or others.

Then – and only then – can one be confident that when Katie Taylor ‘retires’ there will be several in the queue to take over where she leaves off. That will not happen unless they regularly have the opportunity to travel to tournaments (and not just International events like the Europeans ).Youngsters such as Rowland and Ceire Smith did actually very well in Rotterdam – remember that the Geesala girl lost to the eventual European Champion, World no 2 and potential Gold winner in London 2012 – Nikki Adams.

For Katie Taylor though another well deserved title, another Gold Medal to adorn that mantelpiece in Bray and another Media Reception committee awaits her arrival at Dublin Airport. Sounds familiar?


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