Wednesday 24 January 2018

Katie: You still haven't seen the best of me

Bray boxer fulfils lifelong dream to become first Irish fighter to win amateur and professional world titles

Katie Taylor piles the pressure on Anahi Esther Sanchez during Saturday night’s WBA lightweight title bout in Cardiff. Photo: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor piles the pressure on Anahi Esther Sanchez during Saturday night’s WBA lightweight title bout in Cardiff. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick in Cardiff

Katie Taylor has promised "bigger nights ahead" after coming through a gruelling 10-round bout against Anahi Esther Sanchez to claim her first world title in Cardiff on Saturday night.

Taylor dominated her gritty Argentinian opponent but sustained an eye wound that puts on ice her plans to fight a first defence of her title in December.

Referee Steve Gray raises Katie Taylor’s hand in victory as she is embraced by her mother Bridget. Photo: Sportsfile
Referee Steve Gray raises Katie Taylor’s hand in victory as she is embraced by her mother Bridget. Photo: Sportsfile

In securing the WBA lightweight belt in only her seventh professional bout, Taylor became the first Irish boxer to win world titles as both an amateur - she won five world titles in the unpaid ranks - and as a professional.

Turning professional has enabled Taylor to turn her career around in the wake of a calamitous 2016 in which she suffered shock defeats at an Olympic qualifying tournament, the World championships and then the Olympics in Rio.

"I don't think I ever doubted myself," she said. "I always knew that people hadn't seen the best of me, and I still believe that. It is definitely sweet to come out with a great victory tonight.

"I guess you only appreciate the high points when you experience the low points as well. I had a tough time last year but I definitely knew I was going to come out on top."

Katie Taylor celebrates her vicory. Photo: Sportsfile
Katie Taylor celebrates her vicory. Photo: Sportsfile

Though she faces a temporary lay-off until her eyelid wound fully heals, she promised even bigger nights ahead.

"As a professional all I want to do is win world titles and keep boxing on big shows. Is an absolute dream for me. It is on par with the Olympics and there are going to be bigger nights ahead."

It was the first time since making her professional debut last November that she boxed ten championship rounds. Her previous longest stint in the ring was in her fourth fight in March in Manchester against Milena Koleva which went the scheduled eight rounds.

She acknowledged that Saturday's bout was her toughest fight in the pro ranks - and the first time she bore the obvious scars of been involved in a war. As well as the stitches over her right eye, there was swelling over her left eye.

"I definitely was prepared for a tough 10-round battle. I had expected the fight to go the whole ten rounds. I had to dig deep. It was a great learning experience for me because she was a seasoned pro and I definitely learned a lot."

Taylor's trainer Ross Enamait pointed out that although Sanchez - who relinquished her belt by failing to make the weight on Friday - had lost on her two previous visits to Europe, she had never hit the canvas before Saturday night.

Stopped

"The Sanchez girl is tough, even though she was stopped by the French girl (Maiva Hamadouche) she wasn't dropped. I was surprised she got up from the body shot," he said.

Asked whether she thought she was going to have an early night after flooring Sanchez with a thundering left hook into her ribcage, Katie replied. "I was hoping that was the case. She is a very tough girl.

"I knew she was a very durable, tough and strong opponent, so I was prepared for this type of battle. Thankfully we got plenty of rounds under our belt sparring and that kept me going."

All three ringside judges awarded the brave Argentinian one round - hence the 99-90 scorecard - and though she was outclassed, 26-year-old Sanchez earned universal praise for her bravery.

Facing a financial penalty for missing the weight, she could have stayed on the canvas in the second round and still gone home with the biggest pay cheque of her career. Instead she did the honourable thing and fought on.

The contest was shown live in Argentina, which is the spiritual home of women's professional boxing with the country boasting 11 world professional champions, so Sanchez's pride was at stake.

Now, she will be able to tell her grandchildren that she took the great Katie Taylor the distance, as well as being the first pro to win a round against her.

While Taylor insisted that the weigh-in controversy didn't impact on her performance, she was at a loss to explain why it happened.

"It was her responsibility to make the weight. I don't understand people losing the belt on the scales," she said.

Immediately after the contest, Katie's mother Bridget surprised her by stepping into the ring and hugged the new champion."I don't know where she came from. Is she even allowed in the ring?" smiled Katie.

Although she remains mostly tight-lipped in interviews, Katie's deadpan sense of humour surfaced at the post-fight press conference.

Asked about being the support act so often for World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, she replied "I can't wait for Anthony to be on my undercard!"

Irish Independent

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