Boxing: Taylor stays cool to give Irish fans the victory they craved
It was inevitable, it was truly emotional and after four rounds Katie Taylor, the boxing queen of Ireland, won the gold medal she has deserved for so long.
In the lightweight final, a tense and scrappy mess of a fight broke out with Russia's Sofia Ochigava. However, the action in the ring here at the ExCeL was just part of Taylor's stunning tale of extraordinary brilliance and her position as the sport's greatest female fighter.
It ended with a score of 10-8 and Taylor's smile will remain a memory long after the stands have been dismantled. Taylor has been so dominant for so long that there was a sense that she would romp to victory, but Ochigava has never been easy for Taylor to beat.
The pair were fixed at three wins for Taylor and one for Ochigava going into yesterday's final; Taylor was always a step and a punch in front yesterday.
"I had to stay in control and not panic when I went down after two rounds," said Taylor after completing several laps of the ExCeL with her medal round her neck and an Irish flag floating from her shoulders. "I could hear the noise and I just knew I had to stay cool and give everybody what they wanted. "
Taylor adds the Olympic gold to her tally of four World Championships and five European Championships, which partially explains her standing in Ireland, where her reception whenever she is introduced at public events is always the loudest and the longest. She often fights on pro cards, where she steals the glory.
"I have dreamt of this moment all of my life and it is even better," added Taylor, who carried the flag at the opening ceremony and was also part of the International Olympic Committee's video at the same ceremony. "I hope that this win can inspire people like Michael Carruth's win did for me in 1992. The country stopped for that fight." Well, in Ireland yesterday they stopped to watch Taylor win the medal and it seems they will stop again to welcome her back to Dublin and that party might take a serious toll.
Taylor has been so dominant for so long in boxing's lightweight division that it seems like the only way to beat her, or rather to get the decision over her, is to fight her in one of boxing's European backwaters.
A loss in Bulgaria last year to a local woman was investigated and 13 Bulgarian officials were sacked. On the one occasion when Ochigava managed to scrape a win over her, at a tournament in the Czech Republic in 2010, two of the five judges were from Russia.
She fights with both God and her father on her side and her dad, Yorkshire-born Peter, is in her corner all of the time. "Katie handles the pressure, never loses her cool and always does what she has to do," he said late yesterday, a second or two before embracing Irish broadcasting legend Jimmy Magee in a tearful bearhug. In Ireland Olympic gold medals are rare currency and Taylor, a genuine national idol, has just added the prize to her staggering appeal.
It was a great day for Olympic boxing yesterday with Taylor, Nicola Adams and the once-mighty United States finally winning a gold at middleweight with Claressa Shields, who, at just 17 years and 145 days, is the second-youngest Olympic boxing gold medal winner ever. Not a bad start for the woman.
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