Womens Boxing

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There has been a renewed interest in boxing in Ireland amongst women over the last few years. One of the main reasons for this has been the success of Bray Boxing Club’s very own Katie Taylor.

In October 2001, a 15-year-year-old Taylor beat Belfast’s Alanna Audley- Murphy in the first-ever sanctioned female boxing match at the National Stadium in Dublin.

Katie Taylor is without doubt the greatest female amateur boxer in the world today. She is a 6 time European champion, 4 Time World champion and 5 time European Union champion. The Bray woman has also scooped the AIBA World Elite Female Boxer of the Year Award on three occasions. All her wins have been in the lightweight class.

In 2009, Women’s Boxing was first designated as an Olympic Sport and took place at The London 2012 Olympics where Katie Taylor made history by becoming the first Irish Female boxer to qualify for the Olympics and the first ever Irish female boxer to win an Olympic Gold Medal.


Portrait of Allana Audley- Murphy and Katie Taylor

Portrait of Allana Audley- Murphy and Katie Taylor


Three years after meeting Audley-Murphy in an historic bout at the home of Irish boxing,Taylor entered the 2004 European Championships in Italy, but the Wicklow orthodox was beaten – her only European Championships defeat – by Yulia Nemstova of Russia, who secured an AIBA World title in 2005, in the preliminaries.

Twelve months later, Taylor and Audley-Murphy were back making Irish women’s boxing history after becoming the first female athletes to represent Ireland at AIBA World Elite Championships level at the 2005 tournament in Podolsk, Russia –  the 3rd edition of the Championships since USA 2001 –  in the 60kg and 63kg weight classes.

The Belfast and Leinster duo both won their last-16 bouts in Podolsk, but Audley-Murphy lost to Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus in the quarter-finals and Taylor was beaten by North Korea’s Kang Kum-Hui. It remains her only reversal at World Elite Championships level in 21 outings over the last eight years.

Taylor had travelled to the 2005 World Championships as the current European champion after beating Finland’s Eva Wahlstrom in the 60kg decider in Norway. Audley-Murphy made the last-eight in Toonsberg.

Porto Torres, Italy was the next port of call for the ground-breaking Irish duo for the 2006 European Union Championships. But Taylor lost to Turkey’s Gulsum Tatar, who she’d beat in the European Championships in Norway a year previous, in the last-eight, while Audley-Murphy stopped Spain’s Silvia Leoil on the old 15-point rule in the quarter-finals to guarantee herself at least bronze before losing to England’s Amanda Coulson in the last-four.

Taylor, however, bounced back from her reversal to Tatar in spectacular style in November that same year when she won her first World title in New Delhi, India, Ireland’s first AIBA Elite gold. The  Bray woman won three bouts en route to the final, where she comprehensively outpointed Argentina’s Anabella Erica Frias, the current WBC World pro champion, 31-14.

Two months prior to her top of the podium finish in New Delhi, Taylor successfully defended her European title in Warsaw, Poland after routing Russia’s Tatyana Chalaya in the 60kg final. The brace of gold medals lifted the three-time AIBA World Elite Female Boxer of the Year to No. 1 in the AIBA World rankings, a position she has occupied since.

Ireland didn’t enter a team for the 2007 EU Women’s Championships, but Taylor did travel Vejle, Denmark that year to collect her third successive European title after stopping Switzerland’s Sandra Brugger on the 15-point rule in the second round of a one-sided final.


Debbie Rogers and Irish coach Pete Taylor

Debbie Rogers and Irish coach Pete Taylor


Taylor entered the EU Championships in Liverpool in 2008 and won her first gold that level, while Debbie Rogers took home bronze. Rogers beat Sandra Silva of Portugal in the 50kg quarter-final, but had to accept second best against France’s Virgine Nave in the last-four. Kelly Harrington was beaten in the 63kg quarter-finals by Romania’s Larisa Rosu on Merseyside.

In November of that year, Taylor secured her second World title in Ningbo city, China. Cheng Dong of China was dispatched in the 60kg decider on a score of 13-2, as Taylor turned on the style, speed and precision to silence the home fans.

But while Taylor celebrated another medal-laden year in 2008, the biggest blow to her career – and to the careers of all top international female boxers – arrived after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled out women’s boxing for Beijing 2008.  So, while Ken Egan, Darren Sutherland, John Joe Joyce, John Joe Nevin and Paddy Barnes departed to Vladivostox, which, when translated from Russian, means to “conquer the East”, for their final training camp with Russia before Beijing 2008, Taylor, the then World, European and EU champion, who would have been a hot favourite for gold in Beijing, remained at home. The female version of the noble art would have to wait another four years before gaining Olympic status, over 100 years after male boxing made its Olympic debut in St Louis, USA in 1904. Almost ironically in that context women’s boxing did feature as a demonstration sport at the 1904 Games.


Women’s boxing took the IOC decision on the chin and got on with developing the sport, but in 2009, the IOC, surprisingly, announced that female boxing would make its debut at the London Olympics. However, there was a catch; the sport would be restricted to three weight classes – flyweight, lightweight and middleweight. The issue – with the IOC –  all along appeared to be the quota of 286 boxers for the Games, vis-a-vis the overall amount of athletes competing in all sports at Olympiads and the reluctance of the IOC to increase the quota for boxing, or quotas for any other sports.  Likewise, male boxing was restricted to 250 places for 2012 to free up 36 places for female boxing. It was a massive boost for female boxing, and while being restricted to three weight classes was not ideal, the door was finally open – ajar might be more accurate – to the 30th Olympiad,  even if female boxers in the weight classes above and below the three Olympic weight classes started dropping down and moving up from their natural fighting weights.

Still, Olympics status, and the International Boxing Association (AIBA) fought lone and hard for it, had been achieved. The fight for more Olympic places would hold for another day.

Meanwhile, Taylor defended her European Union and European titles in 2009 in Bulgaria and the Ukraine. Her performances in the Ukraine was arguably her greatest ever European campaign as she did not concede a point in her three fights en route to gold. Sinead Kavanagh was also between the ropes in the Ukraine that year, but the Dublin mddleweight lost to Poland’s Lidia Fidura in the preliminaries.

The year 2010 proved to be another milestone for the sport in Ireland, as the end of the first decade of this century saw women’s boxing featured in the National Elite Championships. Patricia Roddy beat Nicole Hamill 11-9 in the first Women’s Irish Elite Championships bout on February 19 that year, but Roddy lost to Dublin’s Kelly Harrington in the welterweight semi-final. Harrington beat Jessica Lyons, who beat Caroline Connolly in the last-four, in the 69kg final. Debbie Rogers won the first ever Women’s Elite final in the ring following an inside the distance victory over Rebecca Meaney in the flyweight decider.

Lynn McEnerney, Ceire Smith, Dervla Duffy, Katie Taylor, Tara Keane, Sinead Kavanagh, Emma Bowe and Lauragh O’Neill received walkovers.

Internationally, in 2010, Taylor finished on top of the EU podium again after a 16-1 demolition of Bulgaria’s Denista Eliseeva in the 60kg gold medal bout in Hungary, but Debbie Rogers and Sinead Kavanagh were denied at least a bronze medal apiece after being edged out by one-point margins in the last-eight. Rogers lost 4-3 to English fly Nina Smith and Kavanagh lost 2-1 to German middleweight Ulrike Brueckner. Alanna Murphy also reached the quarter-finals in Hungary, but was eliminated by Turkey’s eventual gold medallist, Gulsum Tatar, in the light-welter class.


Irish Squad at 2010 AIBA World Elite Women's Championships in Barbados
Irish Squad at 2010 AIBA World Elite Women’s Championships in Barbados