Boxing

Katie Taylor blasts through to WBA lightweight title in Cardiff

Bernard O'Neill and Declan Warrington

THE spirits of Halloween weekends past were in Katie Taylor’s corner when she claimed the WBA World lightweight title in Cardiff on Saturday night.

The unbeaten Bray woman earned a unanimous 99-90 decision across the board over Argentina’s Anahi Sanchez to claim the vacant title at the Principality Stadium 11 months after turning pro.

Sanchez was floored in the second round, but the Buenos Aires-native, who relinquished the title after tipping the scales a pound over, redeemed her unprofessional approach to one of the basic requirements of the sport and showed remarkable courage to survive the round and see out the fight.

Taylor vowed to unify the titles in her weight class and dominate the lightweight division after her win.

It was way back on Halloween weekend 2001, that a teenage Katie Taylor beat Belfast’s Alanna Nihell, then Alanna Murphy, in the first officially sanctioned women’s fight on a 16-bout card at Dublin’s National Stadium.

The then President of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, Dominic O’Rourke, who was recently re-elected IABA President, described the bout as a “momentous day for Irish boxing.”

Nihell, who claimed EU bronze and multi-nations medals for Ireland boxing out of the Sandy Row BC and Eastside BC in Antrim, reckons a star was born that Halloween evening.

“Katie was a step above the rest in the amateurs and she’ll be a step above the rest in the pro game. Carl (Frampton) and Ryan (Burnett) have done it (winning world titles) for the men and now Katie is doing it for the women,” she said.

Taylor went on to claim an Olympic and five World Elite titles and 12 versions of European Continental, Union and Games gold in a glittering amateur career which saw her occupy the No. 1 spot in the lightweight rankings for 10 straight years.

In 2011, she sparred Guillermo Rigondeaux, one of Cuba’s greatest boxers of all time,at the St Francis BC in Limerick. Taylor admitted that trying to punch the elusive two-time Olympic champion was like trying to “hit a ghost”.

 

 

Rigondeaxu, then managed by Cork’s Gary Hyde, claimed a WBA super bantam title after seven pro fights in 2010.

Taylor matched her former sparring partner’s WBA achievements after seven fights in Cardiff this weekend, 16 years after launching the most successful career in Irish sport on Halloween weekend 2001.

“It’s amazing so much time has passed since we boxed in Dublin,” added Nihell. “I’m absolutely delighted for Katie for her win last night.

“She’s the reason women's boxing is in the Olympics and she's the reason women’s boxing has such a high profile and has the respect it has. I think she'll dominate the pro ranks. She’s the whole package.”

On Saturday night, Taylor instantly fought with both belief and aggression, perhaps aware there was an opportunity to capitalise on her opponent's struggle to make weight.

She sent the 26-year-old to the canvas with a powerful left hook to the body in the second round from which she did well to recover, and in the third landed a hurtful left-right combination.

Sanchez remained a both game and resilient opponent, her class ensuring she also landed on Taylor even if her Irish opponent was almost always edging their exchanges.

In the seventh Taylor snapped her opponent's head back with a powerful right hand that left the two-weight champion fighting to survive, but in the following round she again impressively fought back.

What had threatened to be an one-sided contest after the early knockdown had become competitive in the final stages of the 10 two-minute round contest, but as both tired, Taylor's superior ability continued to show and her victory was confirmed.

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