Taylor is Ireland’s Ultimate Warrior… or should that be Laoch na nGael?
By Ciarán Gallagher
Exhibit A) Katie Taylor’s ring walk ahead of her fourth World title win over Sofya Ochigava of Russia. From around 0.52secs into the video to 1.10 – a vintage of “sports entertainment” fans from the late 1980s/early 90s might find the music familiar. Which brings us to Exhibit B) the theme music of the WWF/WWE superstar, the Ultimate Warrior.
Both figures have at least once shared the same entrance music and evidently the same ability to stir a crowd into a frenzy; only Katie Taylor is a genuine sporting legend. Maybe an Olympic medal will finally convince the wider world of the latter point. However, her ability to excite and electrify a crowd is in no doubt.
There have been a number of questionable points decisions at the London Games which make us wary of trusting any figures put forward by the world governing body of amateur boxing, AIBA. But on this occasion we will accept them at face value. AIBA’s Twitter account revealed a “Stat attack” from London’s ExCel Arena on Monday afternoon, noting: “Noise levels for Taylor vs. Jonas at ExCeL recorded at 113.7 decibels, equivalent to a jackhammer by your ear.”
The crowd present for the women’s quarter-finals session, seemingly made up of a large Irish support for Taylor, were certainly drawn into a frenzy by one of the best fights to have taken place so far at this Olympics. But only one person felt the near equivalent force of a jackhammer –Natasha Jonas.
The Liverpudlian played her part in what was a fantastic fight and one which should silence any critics of female boxing regarding competitiveness or ability. But while Jonas may be near world class, she is not yet near Taylor class.
There was no Ultimate Warrior theme song on this occasion, with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” accompanying both contestants on their walk to the ExCel ring. Grannykiller is beginning to think the sound of Freddie Mercury’s dulcet tones will guarantee an entertaining contest, with the same song having greeted European champion Joe Ward on his entrance to the ring of Ireland’s National Stadium last February ahead of his dismantling of Beijing medallist Ken Egan.
Both Taylor and Jonas heard Mercury’s message and delivered; rocking both the large London crowd and each other over four fantastic rounds. The Irish woman took a 5-2 lead on the judges’ cards after a relatively tentative first round. However, Jonas then ever so slightly loosened the high guard which she had adopted in the opening round, attempting to throw flurries of punches at Taylor, with the Bray native tying up the advancing Briton. This led to the World champion gradually asserting herself from distance but Jonas did enough to share the round (5-5).
The third round may well have produced the most exciting two minutes which shall be seen in an Olympic ring this year. Desperately trying to keep her chances alive, the sliver of gaps Jonas had allowed to open widened a bit further and it was enough for Taylor to punish her opponent, landing a stinging straight right with a little over a minute left in the outing. It led to a count for Jonas, one which she never really recovered from as Taylor took an eight-point overall lead into the last.
A tired Jonas battled gamely in the fourth but her valiant attempts at working to Taylor’s body looked like they carried no real power, while the World champ still had enough to wind up her jackhammer. Another straight right led to another standing count for Jonas and a 26-15 win for Taylor once the bell signalled.
Following on from male bantamweight John Joe Nevin’s masterful performance when beating Mexican Oscar Valdez on Sunday night , Taylor becomes the second Irish athlete to guarantee medal in London.
Gold is still expected by the majority of Irish sports fans and such lofty ideals will only have been raised higher by Taylor’s convincing dismissal of such a quality opponent. The bookies had already had Taylor at 1-14 to beat Jonas and she is 1-20 to win her semi-final against Tajikstan’s Mavzuna Chorieva, who upset China’s Cheng Dong.
However, the only pressure Taylor seems to know is the sort she applies in the ring, with her father and trainer commenting after the win that: “There’s no pressure – you’re boxing in the Olympic Games, representing your country, we have all this support. It’s not pressure, it’s a privilege.”
The privilege for us is getting to watch Katie Taylor. And without meaning to add any bias, her performance makes onlookers such as myself proud to be Irish. The Ultimate Warrior… or should that bet Laoch na nGael?