By Michael O’Neill
Over recent years we have reported here on many ‘famous’ 60kg lightweight clashes between Russia’s Sofya Ochigava and her Irish ‘nemesis’ Katie Taylor but the Russian squad for the inaugural European Games in Baku next month has but one surprise – Ochigava is not in the squad.
First though let us look at how things are seen in the Azeri capital as far as the Games itself are concerned, with thanks to the Baku 2015 organisers, and the EOC for some of the information that follows.
“Ireland’s Olympic champion boxer Katie Taylor has revealed her plans to make history at Baku 2015 in a video created for the Baku 2015 European Games website.
Miss Taylor is the most decorated athlete in the history of women’s (Amateur) Boxing, and is the current Olympic champion after winning gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The 28-year-old has won five consecutive World Championships, six consecutive European Championships, and five European Union Championships, and sees the first ever European Games in Azerbaijan as another opportunity to create history.
Miss Taylor said: “It’s going to be such an historical event with it being the first event in the European Games, and you can’t really get any bigger than that.
“I really can’t wait to be boxing and representing my country again in such a major competition. It’s an absolute privilege that I have another chance to make history.”
Miss Taylor said that competing in Baku will be unforgettable: “It’s always great to go into a country where they are very knowledgeable about the sport, and to have a really strong boxing team as well. I know the atmosphere is going to be fantastic in the Crystal Hall.”
However, the Olympic champion made it clear that she has only one goal at Baku 2015: “We’re all there to win the gold medal but only one person walks out with a gold medal, and I plan to be that person.
“I want to be the best female boxer of all time.”
No surprises there then since Katie never wants to settle for being “second best” – and rightly so.
Speaking about the 60kg weight division she told the Irish media : “Europe is the strongest continent in (60kg) boxing so there is going to be no easy contest. You saw in the last World Championships three out of four in the semi-finals were European and six out of eight in the quarter-finals were European fighters”.
Taylor will be joined by Belfast woman and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michaela Walsh in the Irish women’s team for the European Games which take place from 12-28 June.
Cavan fighter Ceire Smith completes the three-strong Irish women’s boxing team for the Baku championships.
The Russian team has just been revealed and no Sofya Ochigava. Here are the female members of the team, remember there are 5 women’s weights in Baku (weight order):
Sayana Sagataeva, Еlena Savelyeva, Zinaida Dobrinina, Anastasia Belyakova, Yaraslava Yakushina.
Among the other favourites for the 60kg title will be the host nation’s Yana Alekseevena (runner up to Taylor at the 2014 AIBA World Championships), Estelle Mossely from France, GB’s
Poland’s Kinga Siwa and Bulgarian Denitsa Eliseeva or will we see a new’ face emerge, perhaps Russia’s Zinaida Dobrinina?
The experienced, very strong British women’s squad includes Olympic Gold medallist Nicola Adams, Lisa Whiteside, Sandy Ryan and Savannah Marshall and thus the nation expects (in the women’s boxing at least) to follow up on those successes of London 2012 albeit no place for Chantelle Cameron either at 60kg or 64kg – a decision that surprised many bearing in mind GB could have nominated another female boxer.
Here is the Katie Taylor promotion on behalf of the Baku organisers (via You Tube) showing her in action and which also shows some of the delights of Baku for those who are present in the capital or watching worldwide on TV (Setanta Sports in Ireland) or via Live Streaming.
The complete BOXING schedule is here: http://www.baku2015.com/boxing/index.html