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Friday 24 November 2017

Taylor shows she can both box and fight

'I've a lot of bruises on my face but the main thing is I'm coming home with belt'

Katie Taylor celebrates following her WBA World Lightweight title win over Anahi Sanchez at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff Photo: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor celebrates following her WBA World Lightweight title win over Anahi Sanchez at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff Photo: Sportsfile

If this had been an amateur bout, Katie Taylor would have had her hand raised in victory after four rounds.

The Bray boxer would have finished work early without unnecessary exertion.

But the contest in Cardiff's Principality Stadium on Saturday night wasn't a game of tippy-tappy peek-a-boo.

This was prize fighting. A scrap in which people can get busted up, hurt or concussed.

Taylor, has been world champion five times as an amateur. She owns a gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics. She's been European champion six times.

Her amateur record is remarkable.

Venturing

On Saturday Katie was venturing deep into new and uncharted territory.

At stake was the WBA women's world lightweight title which would be decided over ten rounds.

The World Boxing Association is one of the top four sanctioning organisations for professional boxing. Its headquarters are located in Panama.

On Friday, the WBA's lightweight champion was stripped of her title because she failed to make the weight.

Anahi Sanchez had flown from Argentina a couple of days earlier. She'd had two losses in 19 fights. Tellingly, her losses came on the two occasions she fought abroad. Once in Helsinki and once in Paris.

If Sanchez was dispirited or emotionally drained at having been stripped of her title and knowing that, even if she won, she wouldn't be reclaiming the belt, she didn't show it.

It was Taylor who asserted herself first in the opening round with a punishing left jab and a series of blistering combination punches from fast and accurate fists.

Five years younger than 31-year old Taylor, Sanchez had height and reach advantage but in the second round, Taylor smashed a vicious left hook up into her rib cage which sent Sanchez down on her knee.

At this point it looked as if Taylor might force an early finish in what was just her seventh professional fight.

But while there was an obvious gulf in technical skill, Sanchez showed something of why she's been successful as a professional boxer.

This was a real fight.

Stung, Sanchez fought back courageously.

Pressure

By the end of the fourth round, Taylor, who'd piled on the pressure in the hope of forcing a stoppage, was getting sucked in to a toe-to-toe brawl that presented Sanchez with openings she capitalised on.

Those sceptical fight fans who'd sniffed at the prospect of women's boxing interrupting their appreciation of the masculine warriors, were likely to have been capitvated by this punishing confrontation.

Taylor had fought eight rounds once before. But here she showed she knew how to handle the sometimes treacherous later championship rounds.

It was bruising stuff but Taylor was in control and showed she could both box and fight.

On Saturday night in Cardiff, in front of a PPV television audience on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's heavyweight title defence, Taylor showed her class. With a cut over her right eye requiring stitches, Katie is smart enough to evaluate her own performance.

"It wasn't my best performance," said the new WBA world champion.

Wild

"I got a bit wild at times and left myself wide open a few times. I've a lot of bruises on my face but the main thing is I'm coming home with the belt."

The Bray woman had been busier throughout the fight. She'd shown superior ring-craft, brilliant balance and was relentless in pursuit of her goal, throwing punches in bunches and knowing when to get out of trouble.

With the WBA title secured, her aim now is to unify the division.

"This is the start," she said. "I want to take over the lightweight division. But one step at a time."

With Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn and the American networks HBO and Showtime anxious to exploit the business potential of women's boxing, Taylor's aggressive and stylish performance should confirm her position in the vanguard of whatever future marketing initiatives are being planned.

Just as she did in the amateur ranks, Katie Taylor is now blazing a trail in the merciless, take-no-prisoners world of professional boxing.

Already an acclaimed sports star, Katie is on track to become a global superstar.

As Saturday's fight confirmed, there are exciting times ahead for Irish boxing.

Katie is on track to become a global superstar.

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