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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 18 January, 2019

Imperious Taylor lights up Wahlstrom and Madison Square Garden with career-best display

Taylor dazzled under the MSG lights as she earned a shutout victory over her former rival.

Katie Taylor celebrates her victory And still... Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

IT WAS BILLED as the biggest examination of her professional career to date, but in the end it was Katie Taylor who dished out a lesson.

In a captivating, career-best display at Madison Square Garden, the lightweight world champion successfully defended her WBA and IBF titles against the previously undefeated Eva Wahlstrom of Finland, Taylor’s former rival from their amateur days.

After 10 rounds in which Taylor landed nearly twice as many punches as her opponent, the Bray woman was awarded the verdict on a shutout — 100-90 on all three judges’ scorecards.

A grinning Wahlstrom, bruised and bloodied, raised her hands above her head an applauded Taylor upon hearing the decision before warmly embracing her first-ever conqueror in the punch-for-pay ranks.

Facing a significant step-up in opposition against the woman she beat to win her first ever major gold medal at the Europeans all the way back in 2005, Taylor was borderline punch-perfect.

The 32-year-old was fast and mean, stringing sequences of shots together with hypnotic rhythm, reefing her foe to the body in particular. She got a sniff of a stoppage late on as she piled the pressure on the overwhelmed Wahlstrom.

The WBC World super-featherweight champion braved it out to the final bell, however, and played her part in an enjoyable 10 rounds of high-octane action.

Fighting for the first time at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Taylor, sporting decidedly less gold trimmings than usual, walked out to The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, strolling slowly, her hands remaining by her sides at all times.

Her arrival had been greeted in rapturous fashion, and the noise which greeted her ceremonial introduction at centre-ring drew a smile from manager Brian Peters behind her. Taylor’s team assures, too, that the nickname ‘The Bray Bomber’ — used both at Friday’s weigh-in and on fight night — is not for keeps, rather a case of the MC taking a bit of creative licence. And thanks be to God for that.

Katie Taylor and Eva Wahlstrom after the fight Eva Wahlstrom congratulates Katie Taylor. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

It was evident immediately after the first bell sounded that Wahlstrom brought with her to the squared circle a different pedigree, her feints opening the door to two early jabs to Taylor’s nose as the champion stalked tentatively from the outside.

Taylor fast grew into proceedings, mind, finding the mark with her own jab halfway through the opener before firing a hook off either hand to Wahlstrom’s body. The challenger fleetingly inspected her face for damage throughout the round, seemingly feeling a discomfort in or around her cheekbone.

Taylor was razor-sharp throughout two and three, constantly lashing Wahlstrom to the midsection in multi-punch bunches.

She began to consistently catch Wahlstrom on the way in when the elder fighter even dared to piece together something in response, rendering the latter gun-shy early.

Taylor Wahlstrom Boxing Taylor creased Wahlstrom to the body throughout the contest. Source: Frank Franklin II

Taylor’s four-shot fusillade upstairs drew a scowl of acknowledgement from Wahlstrom in the fourth but credit the Finn, she marauded forward to start the fifth, deciding to up the ante and throw with abandon.

She got it back in spades. It was here Taylor began to truly hurt her, dropping bombs at every opportunity and half-wobbling Wahlstrom here and there as the former European silver medalist loosened her guard.

Hands on hips, the challenger sucked in air after a sixth round in which she found herself again under siege. There was no let-up from Taylor in the seventh, either: smelling blood, she adhered to trainer Ross Enemait’s instructions and stuck around in the pocket to do damage, cognisant that her foe didn’t carry the power to threaten her when they went toe-to-toe.

Taylor Wahlstrom Boxing Taylor and Wahlstrom stood and traded at the start of the fifth round. Source: Frank Franklin II

Wahlstrom let fly to start round 8 but might have regretted that call when Taylor met her head-on, slipping a whippet of a left hook under her rib cage at the tail-end of a mini firefight in the middle.

Her tail up, the champion rocked Wahlstrom with a venomous left hook at close quarters but Wahlstrom did well to cling and clinch her way to a minute’s respite. A round later, Taylor had the Finn scrambling again when she detonated a huge right hand over the top.

Once more, Taylor attempted to force a finish but the wily Wahlstrom had sufficient smarts and conditioning to survive.

Taylor, perhaps sensing she wouldn’t be gifting to the crowd a stoppage on this occasion, did deliver an eye-catching umpteen-punch assault to Wahlstrom’s body as she was being held.

Katie Taylor in action against Eva Wahlstrom Taylor tonks Wahlstrom with a huge right hand. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

The final bell will have come as a relief for Wahlstrom and too soon for Taylor, but the two former amateur rivals embraced for the final time as competitors as the scores were tallied.

Taylor was visited in her changing room by heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua after the fight, and flies home to Ireland tomorrow to spend Christmas with her family.

Next up will likely be a world title unification bout with WBO champion Rose Volante in March, possibly in Philadelphia where Matchroom stablemate Tevin Farmer is due to defend his own belt.

Until then, Taylor can be content with a stellar night’s work against an opponent whose own credentials are indisputable even to those who cite the perceived lack of credible opposition as cause to dismiss the Irish icon’s pro career.

Eva Wahlstrom is not a landscaper or an investment banker or a Montessori teacher. She’s a fully professional athlete and a hell of a fighter. She’s just not Katie Taylor.

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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