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Between us and our dreams: Who is Sofya Ochigava?

Only one woman can stop Katie Taylor from winning gold in London this afternoon, and she’s a familiar foe. Here’s what you need to know about Sofya Ochigava of Russia.

Ochigava, blue, dodges a punch from New Zealand's Alexis Pritchard in the women's lightweight quarter-final.
Ochigava, blue, dodges a punch from New Zealand's Alexis Pritchard in the women's lightweight quarter-final.
Image: Patrick Semansky/AP/Press Association Images

WHEN KATIE TAYLOR strides into London’s ExCeL Arena shortly after 4.45pm this afternoon, the woman standing opposite her will be a familiar foe. Now Sofya Ochigava is the only person who can stop Ireland’s four-time world champion from achieving her dream of an Olympic gold medal.

But who is the Russian? And is she any good? Here’s a quick run-down of what you need to know ahead of the gold medal decider.

Who is she?

Sofya Ochigava, 25, is Russia’s top lightweight boxer and an all-too-familiar presence at the business end of the women’s 60kg division.

She likes alpine skiing, playing tennis and reading books apparently but more importantly, she was a Russian kickboxing champion at underage level back in 2001.

Is she any good?

Eh, yes. Very good. As of July 2012, Ochigava is ranked third in the lightweight division behind Taylor and Gulsum Tatar of Turkey (who did not qualify for London).

She’s a two-time world champion having won gold at 52kg in 2005 and at bantamweight (54kg) in 2006. Ochigava then won a world bronze at featherweight (57kg) in 2008 before making the step up to challenge for lightweight honours. Beaten 11-7 by Taylor in Qinhuangdao in May, she is currently the world silver medallist at 60kg.

At European level, she is a three-time champion with wins in the 52kg (2005), 54kg (2007) and 57kg (2009) divisions. Again though, once she stepped up to challenge Taylor at lightweight in 2011, she found herself second best and her winning streak came to an end with silver in the Netherlands.

What can we expect?

Taylor has described her as “absolutely brilliant” in the past and that’s not an understatement. Ochigava’s southpaw style offers something different but Katie has already shown that her orthodox stance is more than capable of handling a lefty, having beaten Britain’s Natasha Jonas in the quarter-finals.

Ochigava usually likes to wait for mistakes and hit on the counter. Whether that tactic will be employed this afternoon remains to be seen.

How has she done so far in London?

She’s made it to an Olympic final — what do you think?

Seriously though, she’s been boxing well to this point. Her quarter-final opponent Alexis Pritchard of New Zealand didn’t put up too much of a challenge but Ochigava was still totally dominant in a 22-4 win, not letting her opponent land more than one scoring hit in each of the four rounds.

Her semi-final against Adriana Arujo of Brazil was a much closer affair yesterday but after a tight opening, the judges began to score the latter rounds in her favour and she took a 17-11 decision on the scorecards.

Has Katie fought against her before?

Yes — and Ochigava has even beaten her once. That came in controversial circumstances at the Usti na Labem Gran Prix in the Czech Republic in March 2010 where Taylor lost a proud unbeaten record of almost three years.

Ochigava won the lightweight semi-final 8-1 much to the bemusement of Taylor’s camp who felt that a number of punches had not been scored in their favour. Did they have a point? Well, watch the fight and decide for yourself. Taylor is in blue.

Click here for rounds two, three and four.

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YouTube Credit: 777aquilo

When it matters though Katie has always got the business done, winning when the two came toe-to-toe in the 2011 European Championship final and again in this year’s World Championship final.

Does she have much to say for herself?

A little bit too much, if you ask us.

“She is one of the best, but she is just another boxer,” Ochigava said after yesterday’s semi-final win. “In my opinion Natasha Jonas won the first two rounds against her, but the judges didn’t see it that way.

“When you fight Katie you are already minus 10 points. You are fighting the judges and the whole system and they will try to give her too many points.”

We’ll see, Sofya. We’ll see.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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