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AIBA confirms Olympic seeding and has an exclusive interview with Katie Taylor
by Michael O'Neill
June 1, 2012
Photo: Katie Taylor

(JUNE 1) The AIBA have re-confirmed that there will be but 2 seeded boxers in each of the three Women’s weight divisions at the 30th Olympiad in London later this Summer.

49-51kg : Flyweight:
1. Cancan Ren (China)
2. Nicola Adams (GB)

60kg: Lightweight:
1. Katie Taylor (Ireland)
2. Sofya Ochigava (Russia)

75kg: Middleweight:
1. Savannah Marshall (GB)
2. Elena Vystropova (Azerbaijan)

No surprises there of course as these are the champions and runners-up from the recent 7th AIBA Women’s World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China.

The AIBA’s Tripartite Commission committee is scheduled to meet Sunday 3 June – a meeting which will decide the Olympic ‘fate’ of some of the world’s leading amateurs who have trained for years with the dream of taking part in this first historic Olympic Games tournament that will feature women, albeit only in three weight divisions. The long wait goes on for those who did not automatically qualify via the world championships.

Those hoping to get one of the elusive ‘wildcard’ Tripartite places include such as Canada’s Mary Spencer, Queen Underwood from the United States and Turkey’s two times world Champion Gulsum Tatar. Also some come from the ‘weaker’ nations where the AIBA is trying to encourage more women to participate in the sport, a good example being Afghanistan’s 18 years old, Sadaf Rahimi in the flyweight category.

Only a few weeks back, Sadaf seemed certain to gain one of the wildcards, now she – and we - must simply “wait and see” for we saw at the recent world’s that brave though the Afghanistani boxers are, they are way, way behind the best of the rest of the world. Not one of the three in China lasted a full round with Sadaf’s fight against Poland’s Sandra Drabik lasting just 26 seconds.

The AIBA commission must indeed consider the long term benefits of including boxers from such countries as Afghanistan but at the same time take due note of the huge risks involved if any “ hopelessly outclassed” boxer should suffer serious injury, with the eyes of the world on women's boxing and millions watching round the world, many of whom sadly still have great difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the I.O.C have finally granted the sport its rightful place in the Olympics.

For this writer the solution is obvious – the AIBA should – and most probably will - provide further funding and more training camps (like their recent one in Cardiff) for the Afghanistan boxers – others too of course from weaker nations – and hopefully invite Sadaf Rahimi , her colleagues and their trainer, as special guests of the AIBA and I.O.C in London and with the aim of ensuring that they are up to the required international standards in good time for Rio 2016 . Sadaf will be much more experienced at 22 but London 2012 ? – no, definitely not for it is a risk too great, too soon for her and for the sport she loves.

After the worlds in Qinhuangdao, AIBA President Dr Ching Kuo-Wu sensibly commented : “Safety is the number one concern in women’s boxing and we will make this clear to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Tripartite Commission when we meet to decide who shall benefit from the wildcards.”

We can but hope the Tripartite Commission agrees.

As things stand there are 4 such Tripartite places available in the 60kg and 75kg categories but only 3 at 49-51kg where nine of the twelve slots have already been filled. So when will we know the outcome of that meeting on 3 June? And how many of the invitation places will go to “weaker nations”?, a question I posed to the AIBA this week.

We will know, I was informed “in the first half of June” . My own view here is that this announcement will come on or about 11th June.

As to who will get those coveted places, the AIBA again : “a few spots will go to best losers of the world championships and the rest will go to the universality”.

It would be a brave (or foolish) reporter who attempted to ‘second guess’ what the Commission might decide so let us hear what others are saying and doing right now.

Ireland’s four times world champion Katie Taylor believes that the invitation places ‘ should 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 concluded. Taylor specifically mentioned Canada’s Spencer, as well as her ‘old adversaries’ Underwood, Tatar and China’s Cheng Dong, among those she felt ought to be invited.

As for Mary Spencer, the Canadian is ensuring that she remains in top class condition should she receive the call . In a recent Twitter post she optimistically said : “I’m not waiting to hear about a wild card…I’m training for the Olympics!!!” Another in support of the Canadian is the new 75kg World Champion, GB’s Savannah Marshall who when talking about potential threats in London said she hoped that Spencer would be there as ‘ she is the best boxer in the World’ at 75kg.

So who will get those places? My own view is that these will indeed go to such as Spencer, Underwood, Cheng Dong, and Sweden’s Anna Laurell (75kg), and possibly Turkey’s Tatar though the latter could be in doubt if the AIBA feel that there are more than enough Europeans already qualified in that 60kg division . That would be a shame for few have done as much for women’s boxing but sadly there will be “casualties” as there are simply not enough wildcards available ‘

Meantime, the AIBA has just published an exclusive interview with Katie Taylor, which we bring you here, courtesy of aiba.org :

“Recently crowned four-time World Champion and leading light in women's boxing, 26-year-old Katie Taylor from Ireland has long been the reference in terms of technique and quality in the Lightweight division. The 170cm tall, 5ft7in, orthodox fighter from Bray, County Wicklow, just south of Dublin, who took up boxing at the age of twelve, has won all before her since she came to prominence on the international stage in 2005 at the European Championships in Norway.

A truly dedicated athlete, who has also represented the Irish national football team, Taylor seeks perfection in whatever she does. She is an example for all to follow and is on the fast track to becoming a boxing legend. We were keen to know more.

A four-time World Champion, how does it feel?

“It feels amazing! It was a really special competition given that it was the only qualifier for the Olympic Games. It was great to qualify but it was also a fantastic feeling to retain my world title”.

Tell us about the experience in Qinhuangdao and your relationship with the other competitors.

“I am so focused during competition time that I often do not realise where I am. For me it was just another place and another competition. When I am in the zone, nothing else matters, I am purely concentrated on the job at hand. In retrospect, it was a remarkable experience for me personally. As far as the other competitors are concerned, we are all friends when the competition is over”.

How has the reaction to your success been back in Ireland?

“It has been pretty ‘full on’ between press conferences and various media interviews, there has been so much attention lavished on me. I was paraded through my home town on an open top bus. The support of the Irish people has been great. Everyone I meet wishes me well, they are all excited about the Olympic Games being so close in London”.

You took home the best boxer trophy from China, which is quite an achievement; do you think you have reached the peak of powers?

“Taking that trophy proved that if you work hard you get results. However I always believe that there is still room for improvement, there is always things you can work on. I can still develop, get stronger, faster, I take nothing for granted. You must always strive to better yourself”.

What boxers impressed you the most at the World Championships and why?

“I was really impressed with the level of all of the boxers in China, it is great to see the improvements that have been made and how far the sport has come in such a short space of time. The girls have become physically stronger and more technical and tactically astute. I am sure that people will be blown away in London. I cannot however give you one boxer that really impressed me more that another”.

You are now firm favourite for gold in London, how do you deal with the pressure?

“It would be a bit foolish talking about medals for me now. There is pressure because in Ireland people know who I am and with my status comes expectations. I have a very specific mind-set; I deal with every competition in the same way: one fight at a time”.

Women's boxing at the Olympic Games, what impact do you think this will have on the sport?

“The Olympic Games will have a huge impact on the sport; there is absolutely no doubt about that. This is the biggest stage of all, the whole world will be watching and people will be amazed by the standard of women's boxing.

Boxing is the best sport in the world, the hardest; the training ensures boxers are amongst the fittest people on the planet. With women's boxing making its debut in London, there will be a whole new generation of fans who will want to take part”.

You are hugely dedicated athlete, what is it that boxing brings you that makes it so special?

“Boxing defines who I am, it is hard to explain why it is so special and I do not know what I would do without the sport. There is something pure about it, training hard, being one on one in the ring”.

Tell us about your training. How much do you do and how do your sessions break down?

“I generally train twice a day, five times a week, depending on what phase of training I am in. Of course there is cardio work, then you work on technique and power, sparring, speed work. Mixing up the training ensures your body never gets used to what you do so you can push yourself harder each time you train”.

Do you have any special diet tips?

“I do not have a special or a magical ingredient. All I know is that you should eat a healthy and well balanced diet over five small meals a day. That is the foundation of an athlete's training program”.

Do you have any advice for the thousands of young boys and girls who wish to become World Champions just like you?

“The main advice I can offer is plenty of hard work and dedication. The harder you work, the more results you will see. You get such a great feeling from boxing”.

What is your motto?

“God always gives me strength”.

Copyright © 2012 AIBA http://www.aiba.org

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