Sunday 19 January 2020

Irish coaches cry foul as off-key Katie crashes out

Katie Taylor on the receiving end of a right hand during her defeat to Mira Potkonen. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Katie Taylor on the receiving end of a right hand during her defeat to Mira Potkonen. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick in Rio

Katie Taylor surrendered her Olympic lightweight title yesterday after a shock split decision loss to 35-year-old Finnish mother-of-two Mira Potkonen, whom she had comfortably beaten in their five previous encounters.

Irish head coach Zaur Anita reacted angrily to the decision declaring "nobody can convince me that this fight Katie lost" while assistant coach Eddie Bolger said: "That fight wasn't even close."

An emotional Taylor vowed to carry on despite the loss, her third significant defeat in less than five months.

"I'm not finished yet, that's for sure . . . I really should be beating those girls for sure," she said.

During her distinguished career in which she has won 18 gold championship medals, the 30-year-old Bray native has occasionally got the rub of the green in tight fights. But when she needed it most in Pavilion 6 of the Riocentro yesterday, her luck deserted her.

The inconsistency in the judging at this tournament was highlighted again in the Taylor contest. The Ukrainian judge gave the fight to Taylor on a 39-37 score, awarding three rounds to the defending champion but opting for Potkonen in round two.

But his colleague from Vietnam took an opposite view, giving three rounds to the Finn and only the first round to Taylor. So with the scoring level at 1-1, it was left to experienced 56-year-old Ecuadorian official Clemente Carrillo to decide Taylor fate.

He sided with Potkonen in the first and second rounds but opted for Taylor in the last two rounds which meant on his scorecard the fight was a draw, 38-38.

In these situations, the judge is required to opt for one of the boxers. Crucially, he sided with the Finn, who only took up boxing in their mid-20s after she had her two children.


This was only the tenth defeat Taylor has suffered during a remarkable career in which she has chalked up 177 wins.

Significantly the three losses she endured this year - at the Olympic qualifier in Turkey, the World championships semi-finals in Astana and now in the Olympic quarter-final - came when her father Pete was not in her corner.

Pete was not in her corner either when she was beaten in the 2005 World championships and again in the 2006 European Union championships. And it was in the wake of the latter loss that Pete decided he would accompany her to all championships.

Their record as a partnership speaks for itself: she captured 16 championship titles - one Olympic, five world, five European and five European Union crowns - with just three defeats - all of which were controversial.

Right from the bell yesterday, Taylor was well below her best against the Finn, who first fought Taylor when she came to her home town of Bray to take part in an exhibition in November 2013.

Potkonen's career had only really flourished this year, underlined by the fact that like Taylor she won a bronze medal at the World championship in May.

Taylor's timing was uncharacteristically wayward and she was being consistently caught by Potkonen's right hand.

Still, she was ahead on two of the judges' card after round one. But it was the underdog who took inspiration from her opening salvos.

She went to work with her right in the second and consistently caught Taylor, who was slow to react, and it was no surprise when all three judges opted for the Finn in the round.

At last in round three we saw flashes of Taylor at her best as she finally got through with some scoring shots, while still vulnerable to Potkonen's trademark right.

But crucially only two of the judges gave Taylor the round.

Going into the final round Taylor - behind on two of the judges' cards - needed the biggest two minutes of her career to overcome the deficit.

Again she caught her opponent but left enough doubt in the judges' mind to allow them to award the fight to the Finn, who is now guaranteed a bronze medal at worst.

There was no consolation for Taylor, who was accompanied by her mother Bridget in the mixed zone.

"The losses during the year have been very, very tough but I really felt like I came into this competition very well prepared and I really believed that I'd come home with a gold medal," she said.

"But the plans that I have in my heart are sometimes different than God's plans. I just have to trust Him during this time," she said.

A dreadful 12 days for Irish boxing has just taken another turn for the worse.

Irish Independent

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