Katie Taylor last week added her first national title to her impressive trophy cabinet and it inspired us to take a look back at another defining moment in her career. There have been so many incredible and inspiring achievements along the way during the Irish boxing sensation’s rise to the top of the sport but perhaps the pinnacle of it all came during London’s 2012 Olympic games.
Heading into the London games Taylor had already won ten different European titles and had been crowned World champion on no less than four occasions. London was different though, historic. The 2012 Olympic games would be the first time that Women’s Boxing would feature at the Olympics. Growing up Katie dreamed of Olympic gold but for a long time it seemed that the opportunity would be denied to her, not on account of any lack of ability, simply because she was a woman. This was one medal that could top it all for the Bray native.
Taylor received a bye in the first round so her first fight was against Great Britain’s Natasha Jones, who she impressively defeated 26-15 earning her a place in the semi-final. The semi-final berth guaranteed Taylor at least a bronze medal but Taylor is a champion who had her sights set firmly on gold. Her semi final opponent was Tajikistan’s Mavzuna Chorieva. Again the Irish champion was dominant, recording a 17-9 win over her fellow semifinalist. Silver seemed no better than bronze at this stage and the nation hoped and prayed that Katie would bring home the gold that she so eagerly wanted, and deserved.
On the 9th of August 2012 the Excel Arena in London filled with boxing fans to witness the Olympic female boxing finals. Taylor was pitted against Russia’s Sofya Ochigava in the final fight. The two fighters had fought before in the World Championship final, with the Irish boxer winning 11-7. There was a feeling of a great destiny about to be fulfilled from Katie’s supporters, not just in London but back home in Ireland and around the world. Of course it was not going to be a simple contest for Katie. A sea of green met the contestants as they entered the arena, Taylor in red and Ochigava in blue.
The first round was close with both fighters landing some decent blows but not wanting to take any huge risks. The tight round ended 2-2. The crowd was deafening in their support for Taylor, and tricolors had infiltrated every corner of the area. Round two began and it was the Russian who was landing more significant blows. Despite a 2-1 second round loss the crowd was still vocally willing on Katie Taylor.
The Russian boxer had managed to frustrate Taylor with defensive boxing and grappling that interrupted the rhythm of the fight. Seemingly buoyed by the unwavering support Taylor was back to her best in the third round and the noise in the stadium was incredible, from the chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” throughout the round to the eruption of cheering at the end of the round. Taylor took the third 4-1 as was now just one round away from Olympic glory, could she hold on?
Both fighters had spells of dominance in the final round, and Katie Taylor looked like she was going to be knocked to the mat only to stumble into a good recovery. The raucous crowd continued to sing right through until the final bell.
Then came the night’s first moment of silence. The fighters and fans waited for what seemed an eternity for the judge’s decision to be announced. Finally, Taylor was declared the victor with a 10-8 win and once more the crowd upped the decibel level with the loudest cheers of the whole Olympics. Katie Taylor could add an Olympic title to her collection of European and World Championship wins.
The achievement was incredible for Taylor herself but also carried a fairytale message for aspiring young athletes, that with enough hard work and dedication anything is possible regardless of obstacles that may be present. The female boxing finals were a landmark occasion for Women’s Sport and the Olympics. Katie Taylor had become the first ever female Olympic lightweight boxing champion, a defining moment for her, Irish Women’s sport, and Irish sport in general.
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BY - Finn Mongey
1 December 2015