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Part One-The finals: The Olympic weights – 51kg, 60kg and 75kg.
By Michael O’Neill
With additional reporting
by AIBA.org
May 20, 2012
Photo: Ren Cancan

(MAY 20) Saturday was finals day in the 7th AIBA Women's World Boxing championships in Qinhuangdao, North East China which has also served as the only female Olympic Qualifier. Once again the main focus of attention was on the three Olympic weights 51 kg, 60kg and 75kg. We had already seen many surprises this week none more so than in the 75kg category where favourite, Canada’s Mary Spencer and United States sensation Claressa Shields were early casualties.

Out too went China’s AIBA World Champion Li Jinzi and leading Russian, Nadezhda Torlopova - and so it came to pass that the final was between Azeri, Yelena Vystropova and ‘birthday girl’, England’s Savannah Rose Marshall , 21 today.

Marshall, from Hartlepool in North Eastern England,, started slowly but gradually gained the upper hand and held a 7:5 lead at half way.

The third round was a rough one for ‘the silent assassin’ (as Marshall is known to the British Press corps) and she was on the receiving end of an excellent uppercut which left her with a bloody nose. They breed them tough in Hartlepool though and this setback spurred her on – she kept in front, albeit narrowly, and ended a deserving 17:15 winner.

What better way to celebrate a 21st Birthday than winning a World title and qualify for the Olympics? A birthday that Savannah will long remember.

She told BBC Sport: "I was only 12 when I walked into a boxing ring, I loved it ever since and now I'm world champion."

"It hasn't even sunk in that I'm going to the Olympics yet. It's crazy," Marshall added.

This has been a good week for the England team with all three of their Olympic entrants duly qualifying for London 2012 . Today, one wondered if Nicola Adams, in the 51kg Olympic flyweight class could ‘upset’ host nation favourite, Ren Cancan?

China's two-time AIBA World Champion and Asian Games winner Ren Cancan was quick off the mark and had a four points lead at the end of the second round. She retained that advantage throughout despite a good comeback by Adams.

Today there was little doubt but Cancan deserved her win here as she had done two years ago in Barbados but come August in London, one feels that Adams may well improve sufficiently to reverse that result. Only time will tell. She will need though to get off to a better start.

"This hasn't dented my confidence. It's been a great experience and I've had an amazing time," said Adams.

"I qualified for the Olympics and that's what I came to do. In London, it'll be on my own turf so the score will be different then.

"I'll be going for gold. I'll get a bit fitter and have a bit more technical ability."

As for the 24 years old champion: "I was happy to get the title," said Ren after the fight was over . "I practised so hard for this moment."

"My next goal would be London Olympics. I am starting to analyse my opponents to face in London. It would be my glory to win something at the Olympics."

The highlight of the day was the third meeting of Russia’s Sofya Ochigava and Ireland’s Katie Taylor in the 60kg Lightweight final. Ochigava was confident she could reverse the 10:5 defeat she suffered at Taylor’s hands in the European championship decider last October in Rotterdam.

This was no classic but a tense and tight duel between two great technical boxers, the scores were tied at 4-4 at the end of the first two rounds, but Taylor held her nerve and composure and led (8-6) as the bell tolled at the end of the third. She added a further 3 points to her opponents 1 and thus claimed her fourth World title in a row, on a score line 11:7.

Katie herself later told the assembled media : “It’s amazing to win four world titles … it was such a tense fight, so close all the way through, a real game of patience and nerves,” she said. That is not surprising as both have a tremendous respect for one another nowadays as could be seen after the presentation ceremony.

“I just tried to concentrate. She was feinting constantly and I was feinting constantly. She’s a complete counterpuncher and it was always going to be difficult for her once she goes a few points down. I’m just glad I’m going home with a gold medal “, she told ‘The Irish Times’

Before the fight, coach and Dad ,Peter had forecast that it would be a very technical battle for supremacy.

“She’s a great boxer, the Russian girl, and we knew it was going to be tactical, but Thank God Katie held her nerve. This was not a fight for the armchair viewers, this was one for the connoisseurs,” he said.

“I’m just so glad to be going into the Olympics in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” a delighted Taylor herself added

“Sofya is a fantastic boxer and she’s always been at the very, very top. We have a great rivalry going on. We’re great friends outside the ring but inside it’s different,” she went on.

“It’s an honour to represent my country and to go away hearing ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ is a great feeling.”

Again today she repeated her call that the “Tripartite Commission Invitation places” be given to the very best competitors in all weight classes so that the world can see in London just how good women’s boxing really is.

“Hopefully they make the right decisions when handing out those wildcards. We need to showcase women’s boxing,” she said.

The perfect end to a perfect day for the champion came when she was presented with the “Best Boxer of the Championships” award.

Of course it was not long before the Politicians added their words of praise. Ireland’s President, Michael D. Higgins said it was a great achievement which showed once again that Katie Taylor is "one of our greatest ever competitors at international level".

Shortly after the Taoiseach Enda Kenny added: “ Congratulations to Katie Taylor. This was another brilliant performance. She is an outstanding and true champion. She has made us all proud and lifted the heads of the Irish people”.

Minister of Sport Michael Ring took the opportunity to tell the Irish nation : “Katie has shown how dedication, tenacity, commitment and determination can achieve world titles and gold medals. She is a great role model for her sport, and I hope her fantastic achievement will encourage other women to take up her sport. She is a superb ambassador for Women’s Boxing in Ireland and I congratulate her on her Gold Medal. We are tremendously proud that she will be flying the flag for Women’s Boxing in Ireland in the London Olympics 2012”.

A complete list of the qualifiers from these three weight classes can be found here. Do remember though that the Tripartite Invitation places are yet to be announced. link

PART II - China Finals

Video of the Semi-Finals, and the Finals!





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