Sunday 4 December 2016

Taylor 'still improving' as road to Rio takes shape

Michael Verney

Published 25/02/2016 | 02:30

Sky Academy Ambassador Katie Taylor. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Sky Academy Ambassador Katie Taylor. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The radical International Boxing Association (AIBA) proposal to allow professional boxers compete at the Olympics could see Katie Taylor turn pro.

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Taylor, with Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions cited as one of her suitors, looked poised to switch codes after winning gold at London 2012. But the Bray woman opted to remain amateur to retain her Olympic status.

However, if the AIBA proposals are pushed through she would no longer need a National Federation as she would be representing herself.

Likewise Michael Conlan, like Taylor a current World Elite champion, could switch codes, along with Ireland's top Elite boxers, and retain his Olympic status.

She oozed class when taking Olympic gold four years ago but opponents be warned - Katie Taylor believes she's now a better fighter and is hungrier than ever ahead of the Rio Games.

With the pressure of a nation on her shoulders, Taylor became the first Olympic female lightweight champion in London and has amassed an unbeaten streak of 61 fights, including resounding victories against Jelina Jelic and Queen Underwood at the weekend.

Both fights were in preparation for Olympic qualifying in April, quickly followed by the World Championships in May, and the Bray boxer feels she is consistently adding to her arsenal and becoming a more complete fighter.

"I think I'm always learning new things," the Sky Academy Ambassador said as Sky Sports Living announced their Athlete mentors for 2016. "Even at the fights at the weekend I was trying a few things. I'm a lot stronger and fitter than I was four years ago and I'm punching a lot harder."

With her outstanding credentials and a string of remarkable results comes the threat of complacency, but the 29-year-old thrives on knowing that younger fighters are chomping at her heels.

"When you're at the top everyone wants to get that off you. But nothing is as big as the pressure you put on yourself and I definitely go into every competition believing and hoping to win a gold medal. Anything less than that would be a big disappointment," she said.

"The hunger is definitely still there and I don't find it hard to motivate myself. I just want to be the best female boxer in the world and I want to add to the legacy. Every time I go into competition I have the chance to make history."

A bruised bone in her wrist impeded her preparations in 2015 but she has a clean bill of health so far this year and since Billy Walsh's departure to work with the USA team, Taylor has been working full-time with Zaur Antia.

Her father Pete has taken an extended break from her corner and will not be present for the qualifiers but she is dealing well with the transition as she works solely with Antia, "the best coach in the world".

"Zaur has gone above and beyond and the training is still pretty much the same. Obviously we were very sad to see Billy go but Zaur is absolutely outstanding and I think the media have made such a big deal out of the Billy Walsh saga as well," she said.

"We're obviously very sad to see him go but we should be speaking about the greatness of Zaur Antia more so than Billy Walsh going over to America. The boxers are flying it under him as well at the moment so it's been brilliant.

Changes

"Zaur has been there from the get-go, he's been in my corner from the start and he knows everything that I'm about. He knows me inside out at this stage. You wouldn't want to be making big changes in such a big year so I'm delighted to be working with Zaur."

While not looking too far ahead, the lightweight admitted that the lure of fighting for a world professional title is something that intrigues her. She hopes to do so at some stage in her career and conversations over the weekend opened her eyes to its viability.

"Queen (Underwood) had a few female pro boxers in her corner and I had a good chat with them. They just said there's not a lot of strength in depth in the pro game because the amateurs aren't really coming over yet," Taylor said.

"So after a few fights you're probably going to be in line for a world title straight away. I won't be waiting around too long if I did go pro to get a title fight."

Irish Independent

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