Katie Taylor has joined the ranks of Barry McGuigan, Bernard Dunne, Steve Collins and Andy Lee, as she defeated Argentine Anahi Sanchez to win the WBA World Lightweight title in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 28th October. Sanchez missed weight for the bout, so the title was vacated and could only be won by Taylor.
Taylor, who turned professional in November of last year, had never been brought beyond the eighth round before in her six professional fights (Olympic/amateur fights are limited to four). Sanchez was the more experienced professional despite being five years younger, with nineteen fights under her belt. As mentioned above, Sanchez missed weight by one pound over the 135lb limit, and was unable to lose the weight in the time she was allowed, losing the title on the scales. Due to successfully cutting weight, Taylor was likely the better conditioned fighter going in.
The first round was a tentative affair, with both boxers feeling each other out. This would be Taylor’s greatest challenge since turning professional, and Sanchez would likely need a good performance to put herself back in the title picture. The second round was dominated by Katie Taylor, who delivered a stunning left hook to the body, right to the underside of Sanchez. This left hook grounded Sanchez, clearly winding the Buenos Aires native, though she was able to answer the referee’s count and continue. Taylor kept the pressure on, and Sanchez was definitely saved by the bell.
Sanchez recovered well going into the third, getting the best of Taylor until Katie caught her with a swift right jab on the one minute mark, stopping Sanchez but not felling her. Taylor began to drop her hands going into the fourth, and was caught by some jabs by Sanchez, opening a small cut over Taylor’s right eye. Possibly buoyed by her success in the previous round, or sensing that she may not have the stamina to last until the end, Sanchez opened the fourth by swinging wildly at Taylor, overreaching in her quest for a knockout blow. Sanchez threw a lot of punches and landed few, while Taylor threw few or none at all, focusing on keeping her hands up and maintaining good head movement.
Sensing, possibly, that she overreached in the last round, Sanchez was a much more conservative boxer in the fifth, as was Taylor. A very ‘boring’ round for spectators, as very few punches were thrown as the two prepared to save energy for the later rounds. The sixth round was a bit more scrappy, as both boxers came out of their shells again. The ref momentarily stopped the fight halfway through to check for cuts or marks, as both boxers clashed heads – the first time of many in the fight. Towards the end of the fight Katie Taylor began to bait Sanchez into making a big move, dropping her hands to her waist. A much better round here, with Sanchez looking much better than before.
The commentators spoke frequently about Katie being a smart boxer, but one with a mind for entertaining the crowd, and that was evident in the seventh round, as Taylor started aggressively, looking for a finish. Taylor landed a sharp shot to the head, causing Sanchez’ head to snap backwards, but Taylor lost her footing on the follow-up, possibly losing the opportunity to finish the fight there and then. As we headed into the eighth round Sanchez was clearly starting to tire. The eighth proved to be an exciting round, as both boxers looked to win the fight – Taylor because she wanted to entertain, make headlines, and Sanchez because the win was obviously out of her grasp at that point if it went to judges decision. Most of the eighth was spent in the clinch, as both boxers would throw jabs and get caught in the others guard. Taylor threw the majority of punches that landed, but wasn’t immune to being caught by an errant punch from Anahi Sanchez. A few of Katie’s punches that didn’t properly land slid behind Sanchez’ head, causing Anahi to look to the referee in frustration, though none of them were either aimed at the back or really made any contact.
The fight entering its penultimate round meant new territory for the former Olympic gold medalist, but she started the round strong, catching Sanchez with a series of punches, notably a sweet right hand right to Sanchez’ jaw. For the rest of the round Taylor let Sanchez come to her, catching her with good punches and then moving away expertly before the Argentine former champ could give reply. The round ended with yet another clash of heads, the third of the fight, coming out of the clinch. Going into the last round Sanchez would need to produce something special to beat the fighter from Bray. And boy did she try, but it was too late in the fight and she was too tired to provide any real power behind her flurry of offense, and any that seemed strong enough weren’t accurate enough to trouble the Irishwoman. Katie ended the fight in the same fashion as she had throughout it – strong, accurate punches.
With no result by the end of the tenth and final round, it went to the judges scorecards. Katie Taylor was judged to be the winner by unanimous decision (score: 99 – 90), winning the WBA World lightweight championship. Speaking after the fight, Katie mentioned that her next bout will be next year, and likely in Dublin.
The fight was broadcast in Ireland by Sky Box Office as part of the undercard for the Anthony Joshua/Carlos Takam heavyweight title fight (which was won by Joshua by TKO in the 10th), and there was some production errors. The timer for the first round was set for three minutes, the standard in male fights, despite the Taylor/Sanchez fight being comprised of ten two-minute rounds. The camera work was also not ideal, with many shots being obscured by the referee’s back. The commentary was also unideal, with commentators making bizarre statements at times, referring to Taylor as a ‘choirgirl’ outside the ring, and making the stereotypical comments about the ‘celebrations in the bars of Dublin and Bray’, but sadly that sometimes comes with the territory of being an Irish professional athlete. Hopefully the broadcast will be better for Taylors next fight, which will likely be in Dublin sometime in 2018.
Sky Sports (Carl Froch): Rounds 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 at 10-9 to Katie Taylor, Round 2 at 10-8 to Katie Taylor. (Final score: KT 100 – 89 AS).
Express (Rob O’Sullivan): Rounds 1, 3, 5, and 8 at 10-9 to Katie Taylor, Rounds 2, 7, 9 and 10 at 10-8 to Katie Taylor, Rounds 4 and 6 at 10-9 to Anahi Sanchez. (Final Score: KT 98 – 88 AS).
Judges: Final Score: KT 99 – 90 AS.