Boxing superstar Katie Taylor looks to defend Olympic title, despite disappointing form

Katie Taylor celebrates victory over Estelle Mossely of France at the 2015 European Games. Photograph:( Getty )

AFP London, United Kingdom Jul 24, 2016, 02.17 AM (IST)
Irish boxing superstar Katie Taylor along with Nicola Adams established womens boxing in London in the 2012 Olympics as a must see event but four years on cracks are appearing in her armour.

The 30-year-old Olympic lightweight champion -- who also has five world, six European crowns and the inaugural European Games title -- had been unbeaten since 2011 going into 2016 but she has suffered two defeats already this year.

This included a controversial loss in the world championship semi-finals to impressive Frenchwoman Estelle Mossely, whom she beat in the European Games in Baku last year. The defeat prevented Taylor from taking a record sixth world crown.

Despite her disappointment at not achieving that mark, which would have taken her one clear of Indian great Mary Kom, the consolation was she qualified for the Olympics.

"I's a dream come true, everyone knows how much the Olympic Games mean to me and to have a chance to defend my title is an absolute honour," said Taylor.

"We're going to have some team in Rio and I think we're going to come home with a few gold medals."

Taylor can be a hard character to read. For most of her career she has been carefully protected by her English father Peter who serves as her mentor and recently and her brother Lee is in her corner now with national coach Zaur Antia.

She is a devout Christian and restrained in the remarks she makes regardless of victory or defeat.

However, within the ring she is a tigress prowling for the killer punch and merciless once her opponent is on the ropes. 

Despite all her success, though, she continues to reject the belief held by many she has replaced her idol Sonia O'Sullivan as her country's greatest ever female sportswoman.

O'Sullivan won the world outdoor silver medal over 5,000 metres in 1995, won silver at the 2000 Olympics in the same event.

She was also crowned European champion three times, including the 5,000m and 10,000m double at the 1998 championships.

"I am not sure I can go that far," said Taylor on winning her European Games title.

"Sonia O'Sullivan has always been my idol. I don't know if I can take her mantle yet. For me she remains the greatest Irish female athlete."

Taylor, who has suffered just nine defeats in 11 years in the ring, similarly dismisses claims she is the greatest pound for pound fighter in women's boxing.

"I think it's great to be in the mix and mentioned in that conversation but it's very opinionated as well," said Taylor.

Taylor, an all-round sportswoman who has represented Ireland in football and is also a superb Gaelic Footballer, has thought not of retirement but to turning professional.

"When you're so consistent people have to stand up and take notice. It's great to have that support back home as well. I don't think people praise consistency enough and it's great to get that praise."

However, the amateur sport's governing body the International Boxing Association (AIBA) has indicated it would fight tooth and nail to secure her services. 

"What Katie Taylor has achieved over the last 10 years in international competition, including the Olympic Games and International Boxing Association World Women's Elite Championships, has been absolutely outstanding," said AIBA president Dr Wu Ching-Kuo.

Taylor, who gives a lot of her spare time to charitable causes, insists the fire is still in her belly and it would be a fool who discounts her chances of retaining her Olympic crown. 

"I think I am as hungry now as I ever was. I just want to continue to improve. People on their way up want to take my place so it is up to me to continue to improve."