LONDON (Reuters) - Four-time world champion Katie Taylor’s wait to box at an Olympic Games ended on Monday when she progressed to the semi-finals in style, guaranteeing Ireland a medal in front of boisterous fans who raised the loudest roars of the Games.
Taylor, a sporting hero in her country who was at the forefront of the campaign to get women’s boxing into the Olympics, was at her clinical best, demolishing world championship bronze medalist Natasha Jonas of Britain 26-15.
While British fighters have boxed in front of partisan crowds every day so far, Jonas’ supporters were outnumbered and outsung by the rambunctious Irish, dressed in green jerseys and sporting the national tricolor flag.
An Olympic official said the decibel level during the Taylor fight hit 113.7, the highest at the Games so far - surpassing the cycling finals at the velodrome and not far behind the 140 decibel roar of a jet engine.
“I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like this before. I knew it was going to be great but it took me by surprise a small bit. It’s a privilege to box for them, as well as my country,” Taylor told reporters.
“It was always going to be a tough contest, Ireland against Great Britain. I couldn’t let her beat me.”
When Taylor’s name was mentioned for the first time a full 90 minutes before her fight, London’s boxing arena shook with a roar that one Irish fan said could even be heard at the nearby wrestling arena.
Inside the arena, fans witnessed the best atmosphere at a fight yet as the neighboring rivals exchanged chants of ‘Team GB (Great Britain)’ and ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’, a chorus usually reserved for Irish soccer matches.
“I‘m not going to make any excuses, she’s still the best, she comes out on top every time,” the defeated Jonas said.
“There is nothing else I could do. I could have maybe thrown the kitchen sink at her, I could have maybe driven a bus into her.”
“SHOCKING THE WORLD”
Taylor is carrying the hopes of a nation that has not won gold since Michelle Smith’s three swimming victories in 1996, and even those were tarnished by her suspension in a doping controversy two years later.
The boxer looked every inch a gold medal winner in waiting. She was briefly troubled in the second round but extended her advantage in a final two-round battering that saw Jonas receive two standing counts, thanks to a couple of thunderous right hands that any Olympic competitor, male or female, would have struggled to stand up to.
After Sunday’s momentous session of bouts when women boxers competed for the first time, storming the last all-male bastion of sport at the Summer Games, Taylor said they were showing the world exactly why they have now been included.
“People didn’t really realize the standard of women’s boxing. I think we’re shocking the world here this week, they can’t believe the standard and it’s opening their eyes,” she said.
Taylor, also a five-times European champion at lightweight, next faces Tajikistan’s Mavzuna Chorieva after she surprised twice world amateur championship silver medalist Dong Cheng of China, securing her country’s first medal in the process.
Adriana Araujo of Brazil and Russia world number two Sofya Ochigava, also impressive in a 22-4 victory, will contest the other lightweight semi-final.
Earlier, three-times world flyweight champion Ren Cancan from China recorded a comfortable 12-7 win over Russia’s Elena Savelyeva, who became the first woman to win a bout at an Olympic Games on Sunday.
Britain’s Nicola Adams, twice a runner up to Ren at the world‘s, also progressed along with Marlen Esparza of the United States and Indian national treasure Mary Kon who, by qualifying for the semi-finals, are guaranteed a medal.
In the middleweights, British world champion Savannah Marshall’s Olympics were ended by Kazakh Marina Volnova.
Additional reporting by Paul Majendie