Saturday 18 November 2017

Pressure 'a privilege' for Katie Taylor as she eyes first belt in pro ranks

Katie Taylor at the weigh-in
Katie Taylor at the weigh-in
Katie Taylor and Nina Meinke weigh-in ahead of their lightweight WBA Inter-Continental contest at Wembley Arena. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Sean McGoldrick

Securing silverware became second nature to Katie Taylor during her amateur career as she amassed a remarkable 18 championship gold medals, but tonight in Wembley she breaks new ground, aiming to secure her first belt as a professional boxer.

The WBA Intercontinental lightweight title is up for grabs as the Bray woman bids to extend her perfect record against German Nina Meinke, who is also unbeaten (5-0).

Taylor, aiming for her fifth win in 22 weeks, holds all the aces.

Having gone eight rounds for the first time in her last fight in Manchester when she utterly outclassed Milena Koleva, she has boxed more rounds (22 to 16) than her 23-year-old opponent.

None of Meinke's five fights - which were in the feather and super featherweight divisions - have lasted more than four rounds. Her second last contest was scheduled for six but Meinke stopped her opponent in the third.

Her most spectacular win came in her last fight in early March when a scheduled ten-round contest for the vacant WBC Youth super featherweight title lasted just 45 seconds. But she has only fought twice outside her native Berlin and never outside Germany.

With the Taylor-Meinke fight scheduled for 7pm, three hours before the top-of-the-bill heavyweight showdown between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, only a fraction of the sell-out attendance of 90,000 will be in the stadium for only female contest of the evening.

It's an important assignment for Taylor, who is aiming to challenge WBA lightweight title holder Cecilia Comunales from Uruguay for the world title on home soil in the 3Arena this November.

The Wembley show - the biggest boxing event ever staged in the United Kingdom - will be screened live on both the Showtime and HBO TV networks in the United States, which afford Taylors the perfect opportunity to showcase her talents to a wide audience.

It is likely that Taylor's next fight will be in the USA so a win inside the distance tonight would be the ideal scene setter for her professional debut across the pond.

While there is no doubt that Meinke has a knock-out punch - two of her wins were inside the distance - and her southpaw stance could pose problems for Taylor, there is an clear feeling that she could be well of her depth tonight.

Managed by her father, she was offered the fight less than three weeks ago. She is stepping into the ring against one of her idols as well as fighting in a heavier weight division for the first time.

"I know it will be difficult to win the fight on points but I will be doing my best," she promised.

"I got my first pair of boxing gloves when I was nine and starting boxing competitively when I was 12. It wasn't a very girly thing to be doing but I loved it," said Meinke who represented Germany in the 57kg class at the 2014 World championships in South Korea.

She lost to the eventual gold medallist, Russian Zinaida Dobrynina, but had an opportunity to see Taylor, who won the gold medal at 60kg, in action.

For Taylor it's another night at the office, though a special one as she becomes the first Irish boxer to perform in the iconic Wembley Stadium.

"I think there is an element of pressure going into these fights, but I was always told that pressure is a privilege. I have been dealing with that pressure from the amateur days as well so nothing's changed," she said.

Meinke will live up to her moniker 'The Brave'. But Taylor is on a mission and her performance graph has risen significantly in 2017. She ought to win comfortably - probably within the distance.

  • The fight will be shown live on Sky Sport (pay per view). The telecast begins at 6pm and the Taylor-Meinke fight is scheduled to begin an hour later.

Irish Independent

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