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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Taylor made to work by O'Keefe

Katie's five-in-a-row after big night of women's boxing

Katie Taylor (Bray Boxing Club) with her brother Lee, in her corner between rounds, during her 60kg bout in the IABA National Elite Female Championship Finals at the National Stadium in Dublin last night
Katie Taylor (Bray Boxing Club) with her brother Lee, in her corner between rounds, during her 60kg bout in the IABA National Elite Female Championship Finals at the National Stadium in Dublin last night

Eleven years after she performed on the first ever officially sanctioned women's boxing show in the National Stadium Olympic champion Katie Taylor returned to the South Circular Road to capture her fifth Irish Elite lightweight title - but her first in the ring.

Taylor's previous four successes had been achieved by walk over as no Irish opponent dared step into the ring against the five-time World champion. Twenty one year old Tipperary southpaw Shauna O'Keefe stepped up to the plate last night.

The outcome was probably inevitable - a unanimous 3-0 win for Taylor though the 40-34 score on one judge's card didn't reflect how brave the challenge from the underdog was. The other two judges scored the contest 40-36 which was a more accurate reflection of the contest.

O'Keefe lacked nothing in effort or bravery but Taylor's consistently landed the cleaner and harder punches.

It was the first time since Taylor was beaten by Turkey's Gulsum Tatar in the quarter finals of the European Union championships in Porto Torres in Sardinia in June 2006 that she went into a contest without the presence of her Dad Pete in her corner.

He watched from the second row of the seats as his son Lee and acting Irish head coach Zaur Antia were in Taylor's corner. Afterwards Katie and her Dad embraced before she was engulfed by young fans.

Before retiring to the sanctuary of the dressing room Taylor said she was delighted with the win adding that her opponent had shown real ambition.

Earlier in the most anticipated contest of the night Michaela Walsh from Belfast's Holy Family club secured a unanimous 3-0 (40-36, 40-36, 40-36) win over fellow Irish international Ceire Smith in the fly weight Elite final.

The significance of the win for Walsh lies in the fact that the 51kg weight division is one of the three Olympic weights for women and the 2014 Commonwealth silver medallist will now go forward to represent Ireland in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Turkey in Intanbul in April.

Walsh had dropped down from the bantamweight category where she won an Elite title last January in order to make an Olympic bid. She used her superior strength to dominate the first two rounds. Smith, who stunned the current World elite champion Marlen Esparza from the US at a tounament in Warsaw earlier this year, came more into the contest and caught Walsh with some clever shots.

She secured all four rounds on all three judges' cards to end Smith bid for a sixth Irish elite title and possibly her Rio Olympic ambitions as well.

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