IRELAND'S Katie Taylor remains on course to claim her third gold medal in a row at the sixth AIBA Women's World Championships after surviving a late onslaught from American Queen Underwood in Barbados last night.
The Bray woman showed the heart of a lioness to move within one fight of achieving her historic hat-trick following a nail-biting semi-final win in the 60kg category.
Taylor, who won her first World title in New Delhi in 2006, followed by a successful defence in Ningbo City, China, in 2008, beat Underwood -- her third win over the American in two years -- 18-16 in a thrilling contest.
The 24-year old Irishwoman, now guaranteed at least silver, will face China's Cheng Dong in tonight's 60kg final -- a repeat of the 2008 final which Taylor won 13-2 in Ningbo City.
Dong, who stands at 6ft, as opposed to Taylor's 5ft 5in, beat Poland's Karolina Graczyk 12-3 in the other 60kg last-four duel last night.
Having beaten Underwood 30-3 at the National Stadium in Dublin last year -- she also stopped the American in the second round at the Arch Centre in Kildare three days later in an Ireland v USA dual international -- Taylor was the hot favourite to advance from last night's decider.
The 2008 AIBA World Boxer of the Year got off to a blistering start, opening up a 10-1 lead at the end of the second round at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in Bridgetown.
But Underwood -- who received four points after Taylor received two public warnings for holding -- fought back heroically and took the lead in the fourth and final round.
Realising that a stoppage was her best chance of upsetting her more illustrious rival, Underwood surged forward throughout the final round.
The American fighter unleashed a barrage of jabs and hooks as an exhausted Taylor struggled to keep up with the tempo of her revitalised opponent.
An apparent slip left Taylor on the canvas and drew gasps from the crowd.
Taylor's title hopes were left hanging by a thread, but the defending champion somehow regained her composure to prevail 18-16.
Last night's victory was Taylor's 99th from 105 bouts since 2001, and if she wins today then her 100th career win will correspond with her third World title and her 10th major international gold in nine years.