Double gold for Ireland as Katie Taylor and Michael O'Reilly reign supreme
Published 27/06/2015 | 14:37
Ireland's Katie Taylor strengthened her claim to be the greatest women's boxer of all time as she outpointed Estelle Mossely of France to claim the 18th major title of her career at the European Games in Baku.
Taylor conceded she was not at her best following a recent wrist injury but she still proved a cut above her competition as she added the inaugural lightweight gold to her Olympic crown and five world championship titles.
And team-mate Michael O'Reilly made it double boxing gold for Ireland when he shocked home favourite Xaybula Musalov to claim the middleweight title in a rousing scrap in front of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.
Watch the fight in full below:
Taylor's triumph was much more expected, and now only India's six-time world champion Mary Kom can come anywhere close to eclipsing the Bray 28-year-old's career achievement in women's competition.
Taylor said: "I felt a bit tired after my previous bout but I managed to pull through. My main goal is to go on to defend my Olympic title - I want to go down in history as the greatest female boxer of all time."
While Taylor enjoyed an easier final than her wafer-thin semi-final verdict over Azerbaijan's Yana Alekseevna on Friday, she was still tested by Mosseley and admitted the strain of the competition had left her some way short of her best.
The favourite struggled to find her range in a first round which one judge gave in favour of her opponent, but she was far more accurate with right hooks in the second, and pressed home her advantage in the second half of the contest.
Taylor added: "I felt like she was causing me a small bit of trouble. I've had great preparation for this competition so it wasn't the fitness at all, but yesterday's bout took its toll mentally and physically really.
"Sometimes you go into the ring feeling more tired than usual but you have to dig deep and pull through and I think that is the mark of a great champion."
If Taylor's win was to be expected the same could not be said of 22-year-old Portlaoise middleweight O'Reilly, a relative newcomer to the Irish elite programme who was not given much of a chance against World Series of Boxing finalist Musalov.
But O'Reilly caught his opponent off-guard with a furious start to claim the first round, and although he showed signs of tiring in a second which swung Musalov's way, a rousing finale saw the unassuming O'Reilly scrape a deserved victory.
"It was a tough fight, I knew he was a strong opponent that would be coming forward trying to hurt me and trying to bully me around," O'Reilly said.
"It's a phenomenal feeling to be European champion and especially at the first European Games. Over the moon."
Irish coach Billy Walsh told Saturday Sport and RTE Radio One said: "Michael was exceptional and Katie was her usual, brilliant self. We finished in third place behind Azerbaijan and Russia (in the medal table)," he said.
"Nine guys in the quarter-finals, four of them lost by split decisions to gold medallists.
"We've a good team, they are hard working and they're believers. The experience that they have gained will be invaluable as they look to to qualify (for the Rio Olympics) over the next year."