Katie Taylormade Olympic history on Thursday afternoon when she defeated her Russian opponent to give Ireland its first gold medal and first gold medal in boxing in 20 years.
Boxer Michael Carruth was the last Irish boxer to bring home the boxing gold in 1992 at the Barcelona games. Ireland's Michelle Smith won gold in swimming in the 1996 Atlanta games, but was found guilty of doping.
The Bray native made history as she won the first lightweight gold medal in Olympic women's boxing. The fight had an extra edge after her opponent Sofya Ochivaga claimed Taylor was unfairly favored by referees.
“Ireland is in a financial crisis because they’ve spent all their money on Taylor’s referees” the Russian said, in the lead up to the final.
Taylor outpointed her opponent by 10-8 after a bruising encounter over four rounds in the women’s lightweight final, watched by thousands of Irish fans at the Olympic boxing stadium.
The Irish Republic came to a halt as millions left work early to watch Ireland’s best medal prospect in decades win out.
A thrilling third round, where Taylor scored a two point victory ensured her win, even though she seemed tired and struggled somewhat in the final round.
Throughout the fight a 10,000 strong Irish crowd chanted "Katie" and sang Ole inside London’s ExCeL arena.
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After the fight, Irish boxing hero Barry McGuigan praised Taylor and said she had defeated a very tough opponent.
Taylor who is from Bray, Co. Wicklow, began boxing after watching her father, Peter, train in the local gym.
She won the World Games title in 2010 and was widely favored to win gold at the Olympics.
After two decades of heartache, Ireland finally has another gold medal winner in an Olympics where Irish boxers have done the country, while other athletes have not succeeded, with the exception of showjumper Cian O’Connor, who won a bronze.
Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, reported that Taylor is one of the most popular athletes at the London Games.
“Looking for the most popular athlete at the Olympics, any list has to include Taylor. Katie Taylor might be the most popular athlete in any sport at the London Olympics,” the magazine’s website reported on Thursday.
“Taylor is the ultimate competitor. When the American, Queen Underwood, failed to qualify for the Olympics, Taylor lobbied to give her an at large bid. ‘That says a lot about her character,’” says USA boxing coach Basher Abdullah.
“She’s a true champion. When you look back at the great ones in boxing, it’s the Alis, they wanted to compete against the best, and that’s the same mentality as Katie Taylor has.
“She’s going to go down as one of the best boxers in history. Not just female boxers, the best boxers. She can do it all.”
A massive victory reception is planned for Taylor when she returns home after the Games.
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