Katie Taylor is presented with a football by Firuza Sharipova. Mark Robinson
happy christmas sure

Champion Taylor and challenger Sharipova - bearing a gift - face off for final time before title bout

The champion and challenger safely made weight for tomorrow night’s encounter in Liverpool, but not without another slightly awkward exchange.

IN THE SECOND rather awkward exchange between them in three days, challenger Firuza Sharipova presented Katie Taylor with a football on stage after they each made weight for their lightweight title bout at M&S Bank Arena tomorrow night.

Taylor (134.75lbs) told The42 that she didn’t recognise Sharipova (134.25) on Wednesday night when the Kazakh approached her to say hello at the media workout — or at least not until Sharipova turned around to leave, displaying the surname written on the back of her tracksuit top.

Taylor, 19-0(6KOs) is more than familiar now with the woman bidding to dethrone her on Merseyside, but Sharipova, 14-1(8KOs) has been the embodiment of respect all week, telling media from the top table yesterday that Taylor has always been her “idol”.

It’s difficult to know whether or not these are attempts at mind games or whether Sharipova simply believes the time for verbal jibes — the likes of which she produced last week — is over, particularly when she is solely reliant on an English-speaking translator to get any message across in Liverpool.

Either way, Taylor won’t give a tupenny you-know-what, and the former Republic of Ireland football international accepted her gift with a smile before immediately handing it to her trainer, Ross Enemait.

Tomorrow night, either the old adage about never meeting your heroes will ring true or Sharipova, eight years Taylor’s junior at 27, will become something resembling the Larry Holmes to Taylor’s Ali.

benn-taylor-weigh-in Challenger Sharipova, 134.25lbs. Mark Robinson Mark Robinson

benn-taylor-weigh-in Champion Taylor, 134.75 pounds. Mark Robinson Mark Robinson

Taylor received a typically warm welcome at the Black-E hall in Liverpool, particularly from local women who appeared to be there to see her alone: the reception for Conor Benn, tomorrow night’s headliner versus American Chris Algieri just above the Taylor-Sharipova co-main, was somewhat more subdued.

Earlier on tomorrow’s Matchroom show, which will be broadcast exclusively live in Ireland on the streaming platform DAZN, Belfast’s Caoimhín Agyarko [9-0, 6KOs] will fight for the first time under Eddie Hearn’s promotional banner versus American circuit fighter Noe Larios Jr [14-0, 6KOs].

Agyarko, who has 150 fans travelling over from Ireland, some of whom were in the building this afternoon, came in three quarters of a pound under the middleweight limit for his minor title bout.

benn-taylor-weigh-in Caoimhín Agyarko (159.25lbs) and Noe Larios Jr (160lbs). Mark Robinson Mark Robinson

Larios, meanwhile, was initially about a fifth of a pound over but when he sacrificed his underwear behind the cover of a towel, he hit 160 on the button.

Agyarko recently signed a management deal with STN, a relatively new company run by Hearn’s former matchmaker Paul Ready, and left Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions for Matchroom at the end of October.

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