Friday 20 April 2018

Antia confident Taylor can maintain upper hand over old foe

Boxer Katie Taylor. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Boxer Katie Taylor. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Bernard O'Neill

Olympic champion Katie Taylor will record a more comprehensive third straight win over one of her biggest rivals today, according to Irish interim head coach Zaur Antia.

David Oliver Joyce, Brendan Irvine and Taylor are in last-four action at the European Olympic qualifiers in Samsun, Turkey this afternoon, one win each away from booking tickets for Rio 2016.

Taylor meets Yana Alexseevna of Azerbaijan and Joyce faces Britain's current European champion Joe Cordina, while Irvine is in against Armenian flyweight Narek Abgaryan. None of the Ireland trio's opponents have beaten Irish opposition in their five encounters with our boxers since 2012. If that statistic remains intact, Taylor, Joyce and Irvine will join Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly and Joe Ward, who all qualified last year, on the plane to Rio.

Taylor beat Alexseevna in the 2014 World lightweight final and 2015 European Games semi-final and Joyce holds two decisions over Welsh lightweight Cordina from 2012, while Abgaryan lost to Conlan in 2013. Alexseevna emerged as a serious contender to Taylor after their European Games semi-final went down to the wire last summer in Azerbaijan. But in the three multi-nations tournaments she has competed in since the Baku cliffhanger, she's failed to get beyond the semi-finals.

"The Azerbaijan girl is a very good boxer. We remember last time, I believe that Katie will win better this time. That is our ambition. I'm very positive, said Antia. "The performance of our boxers, Katie, David and Brendan will show everything tomorrow in the semi-finals. We are confident."

Irvine and Joyce will have a second bite of the cherry if they lose today, as the beaten male semi-finalists meet in box-off tomorrow and Sunday to decide the top three for Rio. The female boxers that lose today can't qualify directly, as only the top two (the finalists) in each of the three Olympic weights for women qualify in Samsun.

However, the losers of today's semi-finals will go into a box-off for third and fourth spot tomorrow and Saturday and can qualify if the finalists in Samsun also meet the qualification standard (a top four finish) again at May's World Championships in Kazakhstan.

In that event of a boxer qualifying for Rio 2016 twice, the world place will prevail and the Olympic berth from Samsun kicks back to the winner of the weekend's third- and fourth-place fights.

Irish Independent

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