Monday 26 September 2016

To share ring with Katie is a dream come true - O'Keeffe

Bernard O'Neill

Published 27/11/2015 | 02:30

Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor
Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor

Stopping Katie Taylor racking up the 161st victory of the most remarkable career in Irish sport is the Herculean task facing Shauna O'Keeffe at the Irish Elite finals at the National Stadium in Dublin tonight.

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The Clonmel BC southpaw meets the Olympic champion for the vacant lightweight title over four two-minute rounds looking to cause boxing's biggest upset since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.

The 21-year-old accepts that she will be a rank outsider.

But O'Keeffe believes that sharing the ring with the best is the only way to progress and is relishing the opportunity of becoming the first Irishwoman to challenge Taylor (29) for a title.

"I've trained so hard over the last few months, shed blood, sweat and tears for this. I'm in top shape. You'll see," said the intermediate and Celtic Box Cup champion.

"Katie Taylor is an icon. To share the ring with her is a dream come true and I intend to show Ireland what I can do against the woman that put boxing on the map.

"The experience I will get from boxing this woman will be invaluable. I can't even believe I will be boxing her.

Nasty

"Who is to say in a few years' time I won't be the star name after getting an experience like this? I expect it to be a technical final, not nasty."

For the first time in 10 years, Taylor will be fighting without her father Pete in her corner.

The Irish Amateur Boxing Association are running the Elite Championships for a second time this year to assist their boxers heading into the Olympic qualifiers. The men's Elite finals will be decided on December 11.

Cavan's Ceire Smith defends her flyweight belt against Belfast's Michaela Wash tonight in a key bout heading into next year's Olympic qualifiers.

The three Olympic weights for women are flyweight, lightweight and middleweight, with Cork's Christina Desmond receiving a walkover in the middleweight class.

Five-time Elite champion Smith stunned World champion Marlen Esparza this year, while Commonwealth Games silver medallist Walsh has dropped down from bantam to fly.

Kilkenny's Clare Grace, the only woman besides Taylor to win a medal at the European Elite Championships, defends her 69kg belt against Grainne Walsh.

The Men's Elite Championships resume tomorrow, but this evening all eyes will be on O'Keeffe as she seeks to do what the mighty Russians, Chinese and Americans can't do - beat the best pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet.

Irish Independent

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