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Now comes hard part for Taylor

KATIE TAYLOR delivers. With a fourth AIBA World title to her credit, the 25-year-old Bray woman has set her own remarkable gold standard.

Now as she embarks on the final push to claim the medal she's craved most since announcing herself on the world stage with a win in the European Championships in Norway seven years ago, the concern must be that her phenomenal success will prove to be her greatest impediment.

For the record, Taylor is an astonishing talent. Four world titles, five European titles and four European Union gold medals on the trot aren't won without a mixture of skill, courage, dedication and supreme focus. And let's not forget that women's boxing was not considered an Olympic sport when Katie began her astonishing run. Her athleticism, character and sporting success have helped put women's amateur boxing on the map.

But now comes the hardest part -- winning Olympic gold.

Make no mistake, every nation in the upcoming tournament knows that Katie Taylor is the woman to beat. They've studied Katie's talent for the last seven years. And the big boxing nations have been meticulous in their preparation and planning to deprive the Irish boxer of the coveted gold medal.

Katie's success has made her a target. She sets the international standard. Russia, China, Britain, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the rest of them have Taylor in their sights when they put their boxers through the pain barrier.

Knowing this doesn't make it any easier. But Katie and her coaching team know what they are up against. Distraction is not an option. And as evidenced by their success rate, her father Peter and Zaur Antia have the right blueprint for when Katie gets back on the treadmill.

While her Irish supporters breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that Katie had earned a bye to the Olympic quarter-finals in London, the boxer was less excited. "I prefer to get the fights," she says, indicating that competition helps put her in the zone.

These are likely to be the longest two months of Katie Taylor's life. The plan is for her to be in peak physical and psychological condition when she steps into the ring in London's Docklands.

Thoughts of who she might be facing will be banished until the draw is made. Three of her most likely opponents, China's Cheng Dong, Gulsum Tatar of Turkey and America's Queen Underwood, failed to qualify and are hoping to receive a wild card.

Peter Taylor had long advised that qualification could prove difficult. He and Katie knew the pressure they would be facing boxing in a major tournament with the Olympic Games looming.



Itinerary

There were upsets but not for Katie. But already the focus is being re-set, the itinerary re-drawn and the fitness programme tweaked.

The World Championships will have reminded Taylor's backroom team to expect the unexpected. As viewers to RTé's coverage of the semi-final and final will have discovered, there'll be a wealth of talent competing in London.

While Katie Taylor is the most complete boxer we've seen for years, a gold medal is not guaranteed. There's work to be done.

"I am going to go to London in the best shape I've ever been in," vows Katie.

She knows that everything she's learned about boxing since she began 13 years ago, every repeated exercise, every painful sparring session and every torrid bout will be on the line when she walks into the Excel Arena later this summer. With her ambition and reputation at stake, the pressure is certain to be intense.


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