Thursday 17 October 2019

Taylor in dreamland as she claims title in emphatic fashion

Katie Taylor celebrates with the WBA World Female Lightweight belt after her win last night. Photo: PA
Katie Taylor celebrates with the WBA World Female Lightweight belt after her win last night. Photo: PA

Sean McGoldrick

Katie Taylor is champion of the world. Last night in Cardiff's Principality Stadium, the 31-year-old completed her meteoric ascent through the ranks of the lightweight professional ranks by securing the WBA belt in the 135lbs division.

In her seventh fight since signing professional with Matchroom a year ago, Taylor, the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist, outclassed the former champion Anahi Esther Sanchez, who was stripped of the title on Friday evening after twice failing to dip under the weight limit.

There was a slight sense of anti-climax about the victory which means that Taylor has now secured six world titles in total - she won five during her glittering amateur career. The Argentinian lightweight was merely fighting for her pride - even if she had won the fight she would not have been awarded the belt.

She had lost on their two previous trips to Europe and even though she was a more experienced pro fighter than Taylor, she hadn't met a boxer of comparable class in her previous 19 contests.

But although suffering a unanimous points loss (99-90 on all three judges' cards) Sanchez showed commendable courage in staying the distance and surviving a second-round knockdown.

"Words can't express how I feel," said Taylor. "It wasn't my best performance but I'm delighted.

"Thank God I came through. It was a very tough fight. This is the start of my takeover of the lightweight belts for me," she promised.

Though it wasn't a pyrrhic victory for the Bray pugilist, one suspects that she would have preferred the circumstances to be different. Still, it is a historic success.

Taylor becomes the second female Olympic boxing champion to win a world professional title, following in the footsteps of American Claressa Shields, and she joins an exclusive club of 42 other pugilists, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Anthony Joshua, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks, Oscar De La Hoya, Pernell Whitaker, Andre Ward, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vasyl Lomachenko, who have done the double.

With the roof closed in the stadium where Ireland famously clinched the rugby Grand Slam win in 2009 the atmosphere was terrific, even if more than half the 74,000 paying customers had still to arrive when Taylor and Sanchez were introduced.

Taylor, whose training camp in Connecticut had lasted a record 11 weeks under the direction of Ross Enamait, set about securing the belt straight from the bell. But Sanchez showed she was up for the challenge and came forward, though she was repeatedly caught by the speed of Taylor's punches.

Taylor was content to allow her opponent come forward, but she paid the penalty when floored by a sucker left hook to the body from Taylor. After a count of nine she was allowed to continue; Taylor went for the kill but Sanchez survived.

Taylor continues to bombard her opponent in the third with powerful and crisp shots including one thundering left shot to the head and by the fourth the punishment looked to be taking its toll on Sanchez, though she battled on.

The pace dropped slightly in the fifth stanza with Sanchez again showing her resilience.

As the second half of the contest commenced Taylor was again on the offensive, though the contest was momentarily halted after a clash of heads. Taylor was having significant success with her right jab consistently catching Sanchez in the eight round, and was more patient in the ninth as she appeared to be lining up her opponent for a knockout blow.

This was new territory for the Bray fighter as none of her previous six fights had gone beyond the eighth round and it was perhaps understandable that the pace dropped.

Sanchez was as game as ever in the final round, through she ran into a barrage of jabs and hooks from Taylor. She was well behind on points but she was determined to see the fight through and she achieved her goal as the contest went to the judges and they all voted for Taylor the new WBA lightweight champion of the world.

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