Boxing

Kristina O'Hara wants to break new ground for Irish ladies' boxing in Taylor-Serrano Croke Park rematch * Michael Conlan set for August return

A quiet corner. Katie Taylor celebrates with her mother after her victory over Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Andy Watters

THE undercard of Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano II would be the perfect stage for the first-ever Irish female professional title fight says Kristina O'Hara, who progressed to 2-0 with a points win in Sheffield last Saturday night.

Belfast O'Hara knows Taylor from their amateur days and says she would be honoured to feature on a bill with the Bray-born undisputed lightweight champion if she and Serrano agree to a rematch – which already has the backing of Serrano's manager Jake Paul - at Croke Park.

Taylor recovered from a withering Serrano assault in the middle rounds to retain her undisputed Lightweight crown in a classic fight for the ages at sold-out Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

In a see-saw battle, Taylor controlled the opening four rounds but Serrano came on strong in the fifth and had her fans on her feet as she seemed to hurt the Irish legend and the roof came off the sold out arena as they traded heavy blows, but Serrano seemed to be getting on top.

If the fifth round was exciting, the sixth blew it out of the water as Taylor threw everything she had at the Brooklyn ace who fired back in kind. Taylor seemed to regain her composure despite the heavy shots she'd taken as rounds seven and eight came and went with the defending champion picking her shots and trying to resist going toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed Puerto Rican.

Both fighters knew the bout was in the balance and served up a stunning final two minutes, and after the crowd roared their appreciation for being lucky enough to witness an unforgettable and history-making night, it was Taylor whose hand was raised by split decision (97-93, 96-93 and 94-96).

“What a fighter Amanda Serrano is - I think we are both great fighters,” said Taylor.

“Look what we have just done, selling out Madison Square Garden, the biggest venue in boxing history.

“Both of us have broken so many barriers in her careers. It feels great to be in this position really! Amazing fight. What a night!

“I knew exactly how deep I had to dig in this fight. I knew going into it that I was going to be in the trenches at some stage. She's a phenomenal fighter and a great, great person.

“I was listening to my trainer and I'm so grateful for Ross. Thank you for everything. You're such a humble guy but you're the best in the world.”

Serrano threw everything she had at Taylor in the fifth and sixth rounds but the double-Olympic gold medallist once again showcased her warrior heart by regaining her poise and dominating the championship rounds.

“She really pulled it out of the bag,” said O'Hara.

“I thought she was gone in the fifth round but I think she definitely won the fight. She is unbelievable, it was absolutely huge for women's boxing. To sell out Madison Square Garden… Two females headlining the bill! Unreal and she has paved the trail for myself and the whole female boxing clan.

“It's unbelievable what she has done and what she will continue to do. She mentioned in one of her interviews after the fight that she would be hoping to go to Croke Park and have 80-90,000 people there. That would be some chance if I could get on the undercard of that and fight for the Irish title.

“That's what we're hoping for.”

A MEMORABLE weekend for Ireland's female fighters began in Sheffield on Friday night when Kristina O'Hara out-pointed Argentina's Camilla Avaca.

With an impressive amateur background behind her, classy O'Hara is a fast-handed technician with good movement and ring-craft and the former Commonwealth Games medallist hopes to make rapid progress.

“I'm hoping that was my last four-rounder,” she said.

“I'd like to move up to six rounds because I want a shot at the Irish title and you have to have had a six-rounder. If there had been one more round I would have stopped her.

“I caught her some lovely shots and I really hurt her in the fourth round but she was tough and she came to fight.”

O'Hara's preparations were disrupted by a stomach bug last week but she had more than enough in the tank to out-box Avaca.

“I was a bit fatigued, but I got the job done,” she said.

“Next time I'll be fresher and better again. My debut was a bit overwhelming, it was the first time in the ring in four years so there was a lot of pressure there. I used the first round to gauge the fight and I didn't really do anything different but I think I was a lot more relaxed, I didn't stress myself out too much – I just got in there and did what comes natural to me.”

O'Hara hopes to challenge Waterford-based Poland native Kate Radomska (also 2-0) in the first-ever Irish female professional title fight later this year.

“It's something I have my sights set on. I'm not thinking too far ahead but I remember she said in an interview that she didn't know who I was and mentioned a shot at the Irish title. It was her who brought it up so we'll see what happens,” said O'Hara.

MICHAEL Conlan is due to return to action in Belfast in August but his sights remain set on a rematch with Leigh Wood in Nottingham.

The Irish News understands that a potential opponent – possibly EBU champion Jordan Gill - has already been agreed for Conlan but everything hinges on whether WBA ‘regular' champion Wood elects to face ‘super' champion Leo Santa Cruz instead.

On April 6 the WBA ordered the bout between Wood and former Carl Frampton adversary Santa Cruz and both teams had 30 days to negotiate it. As yet, no agreement has been reached meaning Wood-Conlan II could still take place this summer.

Belfast's former amateur world champion Conlan came agonisingly close to capturing a professional crown in Nottingham in March but Wood recovered from being floored in the first round to produce a grandstand finish and stop Conlan – who was ahead on points – in the second half of the final round. Since then Conlan has been adamant that he is prepared to return to Nottingham this summer and fight Wood at the City Ground (home of Nottingham Forest). Time is running out on that now and Conlan could fight on home soil in August before potentially switching his sight back to the only man to beat him in the professional ranks.

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Boxing