Sunday 11 December 2016

Taylor sees off O'Keeffe to claim first title in ring

Bernard O'Neill

Published 28/11/2015 | 02:30

Katie Taylor gets some words of advice from her brother Lee during her 60kg bout at the National Elite Female Championship finals
Katie Taylor gets some words of advice from her brother Lee during her 60kg bout at the National Elite Female Championship finals

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

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Taylor's previous four successes had been achieved by walkovers as no Irish opponent dared step into the ring against the five-time world champion.

Twenty-one-year-old Tipperary southpaw Shauna O'Keeffe stepped up to the plate last night.

The outcome was inevitable - a unanimous 3-0 win for Taylor, though the 40-34 score on one judge's card didn't reflect O'Keeffe's brave challenge.

The other two judges scored it 40-36, which was a more accurate reflection of the contest.

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

Corner

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 her father Pete in her corner.

He watched from the second row as his son Lee and acting Ireland head coach Zaur Antia were in Taylor's corner.

Afterwards Katie and Pete embraced before she was engulfed by young fans.

Taylor now possesses all the titles available to her - Olympic, World, European Elite, European Games, European Union and Irish.

Before retiring to the sanctuary of the dressing-room, she beamed: "I'm delighted with the win and delighted to have got the opportunity to box for an Irish title for the first time.

"I would like to thank Shauna for such a good fight. She's a talented boxer."

Amid speculation that he will also sit out April's Olympic qualifiers in Istanbul and the AIBA World Elite Championships in Kazakhstan the following month, Pete said: "You can shout more when you're not in the corner but I didn't need to shout tonight because it was a controlled performance from Katie. You get a different outlook when you're not in the corner.

"It means a lot for Katie to box for an Irish title and well done to Shauna. She was a worthy opponent."

Michaela Walsh from Belfast's Holy Family club secured a unanimous 3-0 (40-36, 40-36, 40-36) win over Ceire Smith in the flyweight 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 Rio qualifying tournament in Istanbul in April.

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