'Words can't express how I feel' - Katie Taylor on world title win
KATIE Taylor is champion of the world. The 31-year old completed her meteoric like 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 the Matchroom organisation exactly a year ago, Taylor, the London 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 fighter at pro level 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 all all three judges' cards) Sanchez showed commendable courage in staying the distance and surviving a second round knock down.
“Words can't express how I feel,” said Taylor. “It wasn't my best performance but I'm delighted to get bit wild at times and I left myself wide open.
"Thank God I came through. It was a very tough fight. This is the start of my take over of the lightweight belts for me I was going to unite them,” 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 has 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 completed 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 which floored her. After a count of nine she was allowed to continue; Taylor went for the kill and trapped her opponent in the corner but she survived.
Taylor continued to bombard her opponent in the third with powerful and crisp shots including one thundering left shot to the head which wooed the crowd 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. She mightn't bring back the belt to her native Argentina but she was determined to keep her pride intact and survived another Taylor onslaught at the end of the round.
As the second half of the contest commenced Taylor was again on the offensive working the left jab though the contest was momentarily halted after a clash of heads. Neither boxer sustained any damage. Sanchez again shipped Taylor's best shots and even had success near the end of the round.
The referee cautioned the fighters about the use of their heads early in the seventh round as Sanchez appeared to get a second wind, though she was caught by two stringing back to back right jabs to her opponent's face but she scarcely flinched.
Again the referee intervened to cautioned the two fighters in the eighth but Taylor was having significant success with her right jab consistently catching Sanchez. Taylor was more patient in the ninth as she appeared to be lining up her opponent for a big knock out 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.
This was Sanchez first defence of the WBA lightweight belt – she only secured it in September in her native country. There was surprise in the Taylor camp that she only jetted into the UK which left only with only two full days to acclimatise and recovery from jet-lag ahead of the weigh-in. But in the ring she didn't lack courage or resolve.
Apart from surrendering her belt without throwing a punch in anger in the ring, she also forfeited a percentage of her purse – which was probably her most significant pay day ever given that it was the first time she had featured on a pay-per-view card.
But last night was all about Taylor. Even if women's boxing at professional level is still struggling to retain the status it enjoyed when Christy Martin, Laila Ali – daughter of Muhammad Ali – and Ireland's Deirdre Gogarty wowed the crowds in Las Vegas, Taylor is a trail blazer for a new generation of female professional fighters.
The world is now her oyster in terms of the professional game, though she is likely to remain twinned in promotional terms with her Matchroom stable-mate Anthony Joshua.
This was the third time she has been understudy to Joshua in the last ten months and it's no secret that Eddie Hearn wants to promote the pair in the US. Saturday night's fight was broadcast live in the United States on the Showtime channel.
This loose plan could scupper Taylor's dream to have the first defence of her title in Dublin. Such is her reputation in her native country – last weekend she was named as the most admired sportsperson in Ireland – that she could probably headline a professional show in the 3Arena and the number one rated lightweight in the world who defends her WBC title in her native Belgium in two week's time would be an obvious candidate for a Dublin unification contest.
But in professional boxing the size of the dollar is more important than sentiment so a home coming fight could get put on the back burner again with the world number three ranked Jessica McCaskill from the US a prime candidate for a Katie promotion in Las Vegas.
Katie's victory means that Ireland has now two World professional boxing champions in their ranks as Belfast's Ryan Burnett unified the WBA/IBF bantamweight titles in Belfast last Saturday night.