Sunday 26 January 2020

Kate Taylor likely to be matched with closest rival in tilt for Rio qualification

Olympic gold-medalist: Katie Taylor.
Olympic gold-medalist: Katie Taylor.

Sean McGoldrick

Ireland’s Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor will almost certainly have to beat her closest rival at the Rio qualifying tournament in Turkey which begins tonight in order to secure her place in the 2016 Games.

While the Bray lightweight is the number one seed and received a bye in the first round – she meets either a German or a Czech Republic boxer on Monday – she looks on course to clash with Ukrainian born Yana Alekseevna  next Friday.

Only the finalists in each of the three women’s categories will automatically qualify for Rio but those who don’t make it through this tournament in Samsun will get another opportunity at the women’s World boxing championships in Kazakhstan in May.

A southpaw, Alekseevna – who is taller and younger than the Irish champion - now represents Azerbaijan. She has had two high profile clashes against Taylor since November 2014.

They first met in the World flyweight final in the Korean island of Jeju at the 2014 women’s World boxing championships.

The fight was a tight tactical affair with Taylor winning on a unanimous 3-0 verdict to become the only boxer at the tournament to retain her title and only the second ever boxer in the history of the event to win five world crowns.

However, when they clashed again in the semi-final of the 60kg cagetory at the European Games in Baku last June it was altogether tighter contest.  The three judges from Poland, Finland and China all scored the contest 38-38.

But Taylor got the rub of the green as the Polish and Finnish judge gave her the nod for a majority 2-1 win. Katie comfortably outpointed France’s Estello Mossely  - who is the number 2 seed in Samsun – to win her  18th championship gold medal.

Revenge will be in the mind of Alekeevna who faces a more difficult path to the semi-final than Taylor. She is in action at the first session tonight against Chantelle Cameron from the UK and if victorious faces then veteran Turkish champion Gulsum Tatar in the next round.

The latter is the only boxer to have beaten Katie Taylor more than once – she recorded three wins over the Irish girl between 2005 and 2007.

Meanwhile, middleweight Christine Desmond faces the number one seed from Holland on Monday while flyweight Ceire Smith who received a bye in the first round is up against a Hungarian opponent on Monday.

Light welterweight Dean Walsh and super heavyweight Dean Gardiner are both in action at the first session of the tournament tonight.   The other four Irish male boxers all received first round byes.

Flyweight Brendan Irvine and middleweight Michael O’Reilly are seeded number one while light weight David Oliver Joyce is seed at number three but heavyweight Darren O’Neill is not seeded

The top three in each of the men’s eight divisions qualify for Rio which means there will be a box off between the beaten semi-finalists.

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