Taylor dominates as heir gives notice
LONDON - Ireland's Katie Taylor moved closer to securing her place as the queen of women's boxing on Wednesday as American teenager Claressa Shields left the sport in no doubt as to who was next in line to her throne.
Women's boxing has been a big success in its Olympic debut, gatecrashing the last all-male sport and overshadowing the men in the process. In Taylor, they appear to have the poster girl the four-times world champion promised to be.
After demolishing highly-rated Briton Natasha Jonas and stunning seasoned boxing journalists on Monday, Taylor put on less of a show this time, leaving it to Shields to wow the crowd in the pick of the six semi-finals.
However, the Irish lightweight will be the focus of attention in Thursday's finals as she looks to prove that she is the best women's boxer in London.
"It's amazing. To have a chance to box for a gold medal tomorrow is incredible," Taylor told reporters after beating Tajikistan's Mavzuna Chorieva 17-9 in front of another rowdy crowd packed with travelling fans.
"It's incredible to have 10,000 Irish people screaming for you, it feels like I'm boxing at home in Dublin. Hopefully I can make everyone proud tomorrow."
Taylor may be revered by fans and opponents in equal measure for her role in the long campaign to get women's boxing into the Olympics, but her gold-medal rival was in no mood for niceties on Wednesday, getting the first blows in early.
"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," Russia's Sofya Ochigava said ahead of the rematch of this year's world championship final.
Regardless of her feelings towards the judges, Ochigava, who also reached the final in clinical fashion, will certainly be up against an uncontrollable Irish crowd who smashed the record for the loudest roar of the Games on Monday.
While Taylor is carrying the hopes of a country that has waited 20 years to celebrate an untainted Olympic champion, 17-year-old Shields has her own burden to bear as the only fighter from the once great amateur boxing nation left in London.
After the much touted United States men's boxing team exited the Olympics without a medal for the first time on Tuesday and team mate Marlen Esparza fell to China's Ren Cancan in the women's flyweight semis, Shields gave notice that she was not to be messed with.
The brawler from the streets of Flint, Michigan, took umbrage to her Kazak opponent's tactics and let loose a now trademark barrage of blows that further fuelled comparisons to the sport's film legend Rocky Balboa.
She now faces Nadezda Torlopova, who at 33 is almost twice her age, after the second seeded Russian middleweight edged out China's Li Jinzi in a far less thrilling affair.
Wednesday's semi-finals, which until Shields' blistering 29-15 victory had produced much cagier fights than the women's earlier sessions, were also a step too far for another of the sport's pioneering figures.
India's Mary Kom, the 29-year-old mother of two who wept after competing at a Games for the first time on Sunday, was easily beaten by home favourite Nicola Adams who was cheered on by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Kom, who has won five world amateur titles but at a lighter class than the flyweight division she had to fight in London, cut a forlorn figure afterwards
"My whole country was hoping for me to win a gold medal, and I am sorry I have not come back with that," she said. (Writing by Padraic Halpin; editing by Michael Holden)