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Katie Taylor's fourth fight in four months presents unique challenge in the form of ex-MMA fighter

Taylor insists she doesn’t anticipate a more aggressive or unusual boxing style from her 28-year-old opponent.
Mar 25th 2017, 9:00 AM 18,776 19

Ciarán Gallagher reports from Manchester

KATIE TAYLOR’S FOURTH professional bout is set to present a novel challenge in more ways than one at the Manchester Arena tonight.

Katie Taylor with Milena Koleva Source: Lawrence Lustig/INPHO

Not only is the Bray woman fighting in a scheduled eight-rounder for the first time, but she is also taking on a former world-title challenger in the form of Bulgarian Milena Koleva.

It is Taylor’s fourth fight in a little over four months, with a fifth bout already scheduled for London next month should she win tonight as anticipated.

Another novelty factor is Koleva’s apparently competitive – albeit seemingly relatively modest – Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) experience, although Taylor insists she does not anticipate a more aggressive or unusual boxing style from her 28-year-old opponent.

“I didn’t realise that [Kolvea had fought in MMA], but I wouldn’t say I’d be worried about anything like that at all,” said Taylor when quizzed on her foe, whose definitive MMA CV appears to be sketchy.

“I’m sure it [her style] is nothing I haven’t faced before in the ring, so that wouldn’t be on my mind, I wouldn’t be concerned about anything like that,” insisted the 30-year-old.

Dublin flyweight Lynn Harvey recently had the bizarre experience of being kicked by an opponent – Romanian Sara Regina Coca – during a fight at the National Stadium last month.

Coca – who appeared to have kick-boxing tendencies as she had earlier motioned to use her knee during the bout – lashed out with what was most likely a reflexive kick at Harvey and was disqualified as a result before a clip of the incident went viral on social media.

A crossover between MMA and boxing is more common in women’s combat sports than the men’s varieties due to a lack of female professional competition, but Taylor has no fears about any risk of a similar incident occurring tonight.

“I only heard about that [Harvey] fight, but the fact that it’s been a few years since she [Koleva] has been in an MMA ring or an octagon means she’s more of a boxer than an MMA fighter, so I wouldn’t really be concerned about that,” said the Bray woman, who joked: “I just have to make sure I don’t get on the ground!”

Tonight’s bout – which is on the undercard of the world lightweight title rematch between Jorge Linares and Anthony Crolla on Sky Sports – is Taylor’s first scheduled eight-rounder and she anticipates a step up from her fifth-round stoppage win over Monica Gentili earlier this month, labelling the contest her “toughest fight to date in the pro ranks”.

Koleva, who carries an unimpressive 9-7-1 record, suffered her sole stoppage defeat in her title bout last January – losing out in the ninth round of the IBF world super-featherweight clash against home champion Maiva Hamadouche in France.

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The 28-year-old was set to meet Taylor in London three weeks ago before pulling out due to illness.

“Her record doesn’t really give her too much justice, I don’t think,” said the Bray woman ahead of tonight’s bout, which is held at the heavier 135lb lightweight limit.

“She should be more like a 14-2 because she had a few bad hometown decisions [go against her],” added the five-time world amateur champion, who weighed in at 9st 8lbs 8oz to Koleva’s at 9st 6lbs 2oz yesterday after preparing at trainer Ross Enamait’s Connecticut base ahead of the bout.

Taylor flew to Manchester on Wednesday night having travelled to Dublin from her Connecticut training base last Friday alongside trainer Enamait.

The 30-year-old went back into training in the US less than 48 hours after her victory over Gentili.

She said: “When there’s a quick turnover like that, you have to be careful with your training… but Ross knows exactly what he’s doing and I just kind of went with the flow.”

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Ciarán Gallagher

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