Friday 18 August 2017

Katie Taylor wins the first title of her pro career with a sparkling display at Wembley

Katie Taylor celebrates victory over Nina Meinke in the WBA Lightweight Championship bout at Wembley Stadium on April 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Katie Taylor celebrates victory over Nina Meinke in the WBA Lightweight Championship bout at Wembley Stadium on April 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

With a flurry of punches reducing her battered opponent to breaking point mid-way through the seventh round, Katie Taylor secured the fifth win of her professional career as she claimed the WBA intercontinental lightweight title at Wembley Stadium.

Nina Meinke was a gallant rival for Ireland's golden girl on one of the biggest stages in the sport, on a night that saw her grind her opponent towards a defeat to take a giant step towards her first world title shot.

This was Taylor at her brilliant best against an opponent who was elusive, but Meinke's battered and bruised appearance at the end of the fight confirmed she had outmanoeuvred a tricky rival.

In her first ten-round contest as a professional, Taylor may have felt the need to conserve her energy and yet this was a performance that showed all the control you would expect from a world-class operator.

Victory in this bout was crucial to her hopes of progressing to a world title fight in Dublin in November, with the pressure of the moment appearing to inhibit her in a tense opening to the fight.

Taylor's initial 7pm start time was moved forward after a swift opening bout on the Wembley undercard, with a relatively modest crowd inside the vast arena giving Ireland's big hope a warm welcome as she made her way to the ring.

Bedecked in her now familiar black and gold fight gear, Taylor's latest professional outing had the potential to be her most challenging since she turned pro under the guidance of promoter Eddie Hearn last year.

Looking even more lean than she has done in some of her early bouts, a tight first round saw both fighters trying to find their range, as they came to terms with the scale of the stage they found themselves on.

As you would expect, Taylor was the aggressor in the opening round, with a firm right hand the best she offered to a mobile opponent who proved hard to tag.

Meinke's southpaw style gave Taylor a fresh challenge to overcome, with the German's counter-punches a threat as the favourite lunged forward with intent.

Taylor's golden gloves were moving at a pace that ensured they created a haze in the Wembley ring, but the second round ended without the success she would have been hoping for as the sun set in north London.

Meinke landed with a firm right hook mid-way through the fourth round as Taylor's speedy attacks failed to have the kind of impact she would have wanted, with the German landing another firm counter punch in the fifth.

Despite her struggle to land decisive blows, Taylor was on top and as the fifth round drew to a close Meinke appeared to be struggling to keep pace.

The German's corner were working hard to contain a left eye injury that threatened to have an effect on the outcome of the fight, with Taylor still looking fresh as she again set the pace in the sixth round.

That before a stunning flurry of punches to the body of Meinke at the start of the seventh round signaled Taylor's intent to punish her opponent into submission.

She duly got what she wanted as a left hook appeared to take the fight out of her rival, with a glance from the referee at the closing eye of Meinke bringing an end to the contest.

German eyes may have suggested the fight had been stopped prematurely, yet Taylor had her fifth professional win in a bout she had controlled from first to last.

Once again, Taylor's fast hands and sublime talents were too much for her opponent and it must now only be a matter of time before her first world title fight is inked into the diary.

One more fight in June could be on her agenda before the contest that could define her professional career, but the countdown is now on to what would be one of the biggest sporting events in Ireland in 2017.

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