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Conlan backs defeated Katie Taylor to hit back in style

By Frank Brownlow

Katie Taylor will bounce back from her first defeat in five years to Azerbaijan's Yana Alekseevna at the European Olympic qualifiers in Samsun, Turkey, according to her Irish team-mate Michael Conlan.

Alekseevna beat the Bray woman on a unanimous decision - 39-37 across the board. Italy's Irma Testa edged Bulgaria's Svetlana Staneva in the corresponding semi-final.

Taylor's planned Olympic defence could be back on course if she wins a third-place box-off tomorrow.

If she beats Staneva, Olympic qualification could be secured should the two finalists in Samsun also make the last four at next month's World Championships.

A more secure route to Rio might be Taylor making that last four herself in a tournament through which she will seek a sixth consecutive World title.

But this is an uncertainty Taylor is not accustomed to, having recorded 63 consecutive victories prior to yesterday's bout.

The continued absence of father and chief mentor, Peter, from her corner may be a factor, given that he was absent too in 2006 when she lost a European Union quarter-final.

Taylor sportingly congratulated her victorious opponent. She said: "I'm obviously very disappointed. She's a fantastic boxer and you can't take it away from her. She deserved it.

"There's very little between the two of us really and the difference between winning and losing is marginal. I don't know what went wrong. It was just one of those days."

Alekseevna and Testa have now qualified for Rio by virtue of reaching the final. Both women clash in tomorrow's gold medal fight, while Taylor and Staneva box off for third place.

Conlan, the only Irish boxer to claim a World Elite title besides Taylor (above), believes the Olympic champion will book a Rio place at next month's World Championships in Kazakhstan.

The Belfast bantamweight, who has qualified for Rio, said: "She came back a hundred times stronger after her last defeat five years ago and won an Olympic gold medal.

"The same thing is going to happen again. The work she puts in is phenomenal.

"I don't know anyone more dedicated than her. She'll bounce back, I know it. All the best lose, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson. They lose, but they come back stronger and so will Katie."

David Oliver Joyce and Belfast's Brendan Irvine also lost yesterday after dropping decisions to Britain's Joe Cordina and Armenia's Narek Abgaryan in the light and fly classes on a desperately disappointing day for Irish boxing.

Cordina took the first round against Joyce, but Irish team manager Joe Hennigan described the scoring in the second round - where two judges opted for the Welsh fighter despite Joyce rocking his opponent with three massive rights and looking as if he was going to stop him - as totally shocking.

But both Irvine and Joyce will have a second shot at qualifying today and tomorrow against Bulgaria's Daniel Asenov and Turkey's Volkan Gokcek in box-offs between the beaten semi-finalists to decide the third-placed berths for Rio.

Belfast Telegraph

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