Three times World champion, five times European titleholder, a four in a row European Union winner, and arguably Ireland’s most likely Olympic Games gold medallist and yet Katie Taylor will NOT be Irish Elite champion of 2012.
That honour will fall to Carla Wright, from the Gleann club in Belfast who on 3rd February will be crowned Irish champ without throwing a punch in anger. Carla won the Ulster Intermediate championship in September also on a walk over and the Ulster Senior title in December – again without an opponent.
Taylor has wisely opted to forgo her national title rather than take on the Irish intermediate champion, Carla Wright, who has had fewer than seven competitive fights in her career, and most, if not all, of those in Novice or Intermediate events. Such a contest if it had taken place would have been a ‘complete mismatch’ – the acknowledged world’s no 1 versus a novice although one who for the second year in a row has entered the Irish senior championships, albeit last year she withdrew giving Taylor a walk over.
It is true that Taylor had a long prearranged commitment to attend a vital training camp in Georgia during the IABA Elite Senior Championships , she would have been back and able to compete in the final against Wright. Taylor always has been and remains ‘light years’ ahead of any competition in Ireland, thus her own coaches – and the iABA – insist it would be quite pointless her taking on inexperienced boxers such as Carla Wright, so the Gleann boxer takes the title by default .
IABA High Performance Unit Chief Billy Walsh said : ‘Katie is going to be away training in Georgia, and it’s an important part of her preparation for the World Championships’ . ‘The fact of the matter is that Katie is in a different league to the rest of the girls in Ireland.’
For many years ,the IABA abided by an unwritten rule that they would only select national champions to represent Ireland at World and European events.
If Taylor had wished to take part in the Elite Nationals , she would have had ‘weigh in ’on Friday last and again on finals night, 3rd February, thus also disrupting her training when she bids for a fourth world title in China in May and if she qualifies there , for the Olympics in August.
The High Performance coaches and the IABA Executive , are agreed on what should happen . ‘Katie will go to the World Championships – there is no doubt about that,’ said IABA president Tommy Murphy. ‘For heaven’s sake, she is the best boxer in the world.
‘I was as surprised as anyone when the young lightweight (Wright) entered’ .
The I.A.B.A needs to do much more to encourage Women’s Boxing in Ireland and ensure that once Taylor retires (or perhaps turns Pro), there are others ready to take over her mantle. It is extremely disappointing that for such a prestigious event as the Irish Elite Championships
there will be several Senior Irish titles in 2012 won on walkovers, among them:
60Kg: Carla Wright (Gleann) W/O
64Kg: Sarah Close (Holy Family GG) W/O
75Kg: Sinead Kavanagh (Drimnagh) W/O
81Kg: Lauragh O’Neill (Paulstown) W/O
The IABA also needs to review its entry criteria for Elite Senior championships. No blame can be attached to such as Carla Wright, a young lady who knows no fear and was perfectly entitled under the existing rules to enter this ‘competition’.
She did in fact win the Irish Intermediate Novice title in 2011 defeating Bray’s Sabina Mason 15:8 in the final. Her performance that night showed some future promise though we must remember that earlier that year Mason had lost 10-0 to Kelly Harrington in a Championship bout.
In that final I thought that Wright did show signs than with much additional experience she could be a good future ‘prospect’ – albeit a few years down the line.
One has to be seriously concerned as to what fate might have befallen Carla had she entered the ring against a Taylor at her brilliant best. Women’s boxing has fought for many years to gain recognition internationally and only in August 2009 did it become accepted as an Olympics sport. The fledgling women’s
sport is at a crucial stage in its development just now all over the world and the recent serious injuries suffered by an American Olympic Games candidate already led to calls for more serious controls over participants .(In that case the injuries were NOT sustained in the ring contest but in previous sparring).
The IABA must find a way of ensuring that there are no mismatches in Ireland. Equally, prestigious titles such as “Irish Elite” should NOT be awarded when there are no other entrants. There would still be “walkovers” but only if a participating boxer was injured in an earlier round and unable to participate in a final. Indeed some suggest that no title should be made available if there are less than four entrants in any weight classification.
Boxers like Carla Wright – and others -should of course be strongly encouraged to move up through the ranks but that should be based on ensuring that they learn the trade by fighting those of a similar standard and gradually move ‘upwards’ based on results. . The IABA must therefore fund such trips as are necessary for Carla Wright and other young Irish women to meet up with their counterparts in the United Kingdom and or Scandinavia as a starting point and then when sufficiently experienced enter them in European and World Junior events (we sent no one to the World Juniors in Orenburg last year because of a lack of funding, something which must never be allowed to happen again).
We have seen Irish boxers like Katie Rowland and Dervla Duffy travel to England and meet (and sometimes defeat) top class opponents in tournaments in Cambridge and Haringey – thus others need to be encouraged to follow that path.Only be actual experience in the ring can they progress.
For Carla Wright to be expected to take on Katie Taylor in an Irish Elite final in 2012 is quite unrealistic – though two or three years down the line that may well be a possibility.
Fighting good quality opponents will be much better for Wright’s future progress in the sport than collecting titles by walkovers though she is not to blame if others do not wish to fight her. Remember that Taylor herself had to find contests outside of Ireland to progress.
Had the Taylor-Wright contest gone ahead on Feb 3rd then BOTH would have been losers. For Taylor it would have been a “no win” situation – for Wright the final outcome could possibly have had more serious consequences.
Here you can see Carla training with Gleann coach Gerard McManus, himself a former IABA champion and now a well-respected coach who believes that Ms Wright is a fine future prospect. He may well be right – only time will tell.