Saturday 24 March 2018

Ochigava the perfect choice to give Taylor a proper fight

Ireland's Katie Taylor. Photo: Getty
Ireland's Katie Taylor. Photo: Getty

Bernard O'Neill

If Katie Taylor's promoter and manager, Eddie Hearn and Brian Peters, wanted a real blockbuster for the Bray woman they could always give Sofya Ochigava a bell.

The Russian southpaw, who Taylor beat in the London 2012 Olympic lightweight final to claim Ireland's only Olympic gold medal in any sport this century, has also turned pro and has won her first two outings.

Ochigava, who holds one win over the Wicklow orthodox in the Elite amateur ranks, is likely to be avoided for now, though.

Instead, Taylor gets to meet durable Italian journeywoman Monica Gentili over six rounds at the O2 in London on Saturday, looking for a fourth straight win after switching codes following her shock defeat to Finland's Mira Potkonen in Rio.

Gentili - a late replacement for Bulgaria's Milena Koleva who withdrew because of an illness and who has lost seven of her 17 fights - has won six and lost six of her bouts so far.

The Lazio puncher has had her hand raised in victory in her last two bouts. However, she has lost six of her last nine outings.

dubious Moreover, one of her most recent wins was against an opponent, Serbia's Suzana Radovanovic, who has the dubious distinction of having been beaten in 28 of her 29 fights.

Furthermore, Gentili is 39 years old, one year shy of the mandatory retirement age for amateur boxers.

Taylor, the consummate professional, can only beat what is put in front of her, however.

The five-time world elite champion, who has been through a rigorous two-month training camp in Connecticut, said: "I'm expecting a very tough fight. If I am going to be boxing for world titles later on in the year, I need to be challenged and tested.

"I feel fitter and stronger and I'm boxing better than I have done in a long, long time so I'm excited to be stepping into the ring again."

Meanwhile, Joe Ward has described Germany-bound Eddie Bolger as the defining influence in his career so far.

Ward came under Bolger's wing when he was 15 and sensationally beat Kenneth Egan in the 2011 elite Irish final two years later.

He's since claimed two European elite titles and world elite silver and bronze.

"It's disappointing for me that Eddie is leaving. He's a world- class coach and such a good friend.

"Eddie has always been there for me. We had our ups and downs, but we always stuck by each other," said Ward, who will be aiming to win a third European crown in the Ukraine.

Irish Independent

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