Wednesday 21 August 2019

Taylor targets a plan of attack as she weathers Obenauf storm

Katie Taylor lands a left hand on Viviane Obenauf during their Super-Featherweight fight. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Katie Taylor lands a left hand on Viviane Obenauf during their Super-Featherweight fight. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Katie Taylor sits on a black leather couch in a room vibrating to the boombox thunder building next door from Eric Molina's dressing-room.

Her hair is still wet from the shower and here, deep in the intestines of the Manchester Arena, there's a sense of intruding upon a private world.

The noise from what sounds like an army of rappers on the far side of the wall has an oddly invasive quality as Taylor solemnly traces the forensic of her second professional win.

She's just had a visit from Viviane Obenauf, the Swiss-Brazilian dressed in a tangerine blazer, floral dress and heels, like someone heading out on the town. Despite a grape-coloured swelling beneath Obenauf's left eye that bears three fresh stitches, her demeanour is borderline exultant.

These two 30-year-old women came to this place with different energies and priorities and only one, palpably, would be leaving utterly fulfilled.

"I respected her, but I wasn't scared of her," Obenauf told us in the corridor.

"I think some of the hits I gave her, to the head especially, surprised her."

Stoppage

Taylor won their fight comfortably, no question, with referee Darren Sarginson's 60-53 verdict a fair reflection of the six rounds.

However, deep down, Katie did not want this to be a night for his arithmetic. With Sky Box Office and Showtime customers looking in, she had been hoping for a stoppage.

It's just not in her nature to go selling snake oil, so her candour now catches like a hook on the broad appetite to be upbeat. Her performance, she concedes quietly, never quite rose to the level she would have chosen.

"She was a tough girl, obviously durable, but I felt a bit flat in there tonight," said the 2012 Olympic champion.

"I just felt a bit tired, just couldn't get out of second gear. It was so warm in there as well.

"You get days like that, but the most important thing was I was able to push it out and win over six rounds."

Obenauf certainly pitched up in Manchester to fight and if her work lacked the coherence and precision of Taylor's, it was always salted with enough aggression to give the contest an authenticity slightly lacking in the three-round London destruction of Poland's Karina Kopinska.

Obenauf had been down for a count early in the second - protesting strongly that it was just a slip - and if Taylor generally looked to have her measure, there was always a windmilling threat coming her way from an opponent who looked more game than accomplished.

A stinging left-cross from the Brazilian did seem to stun Taylor early in the third, forcing her back on her heels, but a beautiful left early in the fourth clearly rattled Obenauf, whose courage never flagged.

That bravery soon looked a double-edged sword as she began to bleed heavily from a cut under that left eye in the fifth and, after a an authoritative sixth round from Taylor, Sarginson's verdict was scarcely needed.

So Katie's frustration afterwards focuses upon a need to rinse some stubborn amateur habits from her ringcraft. When she had Obenauf on the canvas, she might have followed up more aggressively.

"I kind of stepped back. A bit amateur there," she groaned. "I should have jumped on her a bit more. I definitely should have been more ruthless. That's where the experience comes in. But it was a great fight for me to have and definitely a good step up if I want to be talking about winning a world title next year."

Attacking

She plans a return to the US in January to resume working under the tutelage of Ross Enamait, who expressed a belief that Obenauf would not have had the requisite defensive skills to cope with a more attacking Taylor.

"We knew that she'd load up on the right hands, but she didn't really have the skill to box inside," he said.

It is hoped that Katie might get in another contest before a proposed New York fight on St Patrick's weekend and there is also a live prospect of her getting a slot on the undercard for Anthony Joshua's world title defence against Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium on April 29.

Manager Brian Peters believes it is viable for Taylor to have six or seven contests in 2017 with, preferably, a Dublin world title date towards the end of the year.

Yet, in many ways, the low gearing of Taylor's emotions on Saturday night spoke eloquently of the standards she is determined to keep setting for herself. Her instinct was to see the Obenauf contest as educational.

"You can't buy that kind of experience," she smiled gently. "You can do rounds and rounds of sparring, but it's a lot different to being in there in a competitive fight.

"When I started boxing, I used to dream of these nights. This is what I was born to do, I think. And what a privilege to be doing what you believe you were born to do."

Just 16 weeks after looking a ghost-like figure in Rio, Taylor's story has palpable momentum again.

"It just wasn't meant to be," she said of her doomed Olympic defence.

The sun is still rising in her world. The future can be anything.

Irish Independent

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