The Longshot: Magnificent Taylor to bring it all back home 

Greatest male and female amateur fighters of all time both step into the ring tomorrow night
The Longshot: Magnificent Taylor to bring it all back home 

GOLDEN GIRL: Katie Taylor will lay it all on the line again tomorrow night in her homecoming bout.

IN a different world Katie Taylor could be preparing to lead Ireland into the World Cup this summer.

Fifteen years ago the then 21-year-old was banging in the opener for the Irish ladies after 12 minutes against Italy.

Then 12 minutes into the second half she was sent off for a lunge (with her feet rather than fists, in fairness) at an opponent in the middle of the pitch and after that Ireland left in four goals.

In all she scored two goals (both screamers from outside the box) in 11 caps before hanging up her boots and focusing on the gumshield and gloves in 2009.

While it would not have been possible for her to perform at a peak level in both sports for long, that she gave it a go for a few years is worth remembering when the conversation for Ireland’s greatest sportsperson comes up (we’ll wait until she retires before thinking of lofting her above Sonia).

The Bray boxer has had a stellar career since she turned pro in 2016, four years after being awarded her lifelong dream of a gold medal in the ring in London.

And now in her 23rd career bout she returns home to fight in front of her home fans.

It might not be taking place in a packed Croke Park, but it will at least be a real contest as she takes on undefeated Chantelle Cameron and attempts to emulate the only other pound-for-pound greatest contender Claressa Shields in becoming an undisputed two-weight world champion at the 3Arena.

And that is what makes Katie’s career so refreshing. Even though she is entering the twilight of her career, she is willing to lay her undefeated record on the line by facing the best all-comers out there in a timely fashion, something that cannot always have been said about the best men (honourable recent exceptions being Saul Alvarez and Joe Calzaghe).

Taylor is stepping up to light-welterweight to challenge for Cameron’s (17-0, 8 KOs) four belts. She edged out her biggest rival Amanda Serrano in the Fight of the Year at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York last April to retain her belts in the first women’s boxing bout to headline the famous stadium in its 140-year history, attracting an unprecedented TV audience of 1.5 million.

This weekend was scheduled as a rematch after Serrano became the undisputed featherweight champion, however, in late February the Puerto Rican pulled out of training with an injury.

But this contest promises to be just as intriguing.

Cameron is rated as a 13/8 outsider and is known for being a heavy hitter and counter-puncher and that seems the more likely way she has of winning against the more technically gifted Irish legend.

It’s 7/1 Taylor retires before the final bell. Aggression and power are crucial components of any boxer’s skillset but the home support will probably add an extra few newtons per square inch of glove to Taylor’s punches and see her pacing herself to victory in 10 rounds.

Best amateur boxer has it all to do against Haney

ALSO stepping into the ring this Saturday night will be someone considered by many boxing fans as the greatest amateur to ever wrap up his knuckles.

Vasyl Lomachenko ended an extensive amateur career 10 years ago with an incredible and probably unassailable record of 396 wins and only a single loss (to one Albert Selimov, a defeat that he avenged twice).

These numbers are unlikely to ever be surpassed and put him up there with the likes of Hungarian great Laszlo Papp and Cubans Tepfilo Stevenson, Felix Savon and Guillermo Rigondeaux (who Lomachenko retired to his stool in their pro meeting in 2017).

The Ukrainian has lost two fights since turning pro and will be a 9/4 underdog when he meets current undisputed lightweight champion, Devin Haney (who is 4/9) in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Haney steps into the ring with an undefeated record of 29 wins, with 15 coming by way of KO. The Californian is the younger man by 11 years at 24 but actually has 10 more pro contests, is three inches taller than Lomachenko and has a massive six-inch reach advantage.

Haney has been compared to Floyd Mayweather, which is probably an unfair comparison for any boxer, but his style is similar and of the jab and dodge (and grab!) variety; he minimises risks by getting in and out as quick as he can. Annoying but effective. He is oversized for the lightweight division, but doesn’t carry major power and won’t stand and trade by any means. Each of his last six fights has been a points victory.

The stats suggest Lomachenko has advantage in power, with a 65% knock out percentage over Haney’s 52% and Haney is 7/1 to get the knockout, while southpaw Lomachenko is 8/1.

I fancy it to go the distance. Lomachenko often starts too slowly and tries to figure out his opponent but if he starts losing rounds early on he might find it hard to rake points back later on.

Haney was unwise to utter some distasteful comments in the build-up — “I will never lose to white boy. Fight a white boy 10 times, I’m going to beat him 10 times” — that might come back to haunt him at some stage, but maybe not quite yet.

It could be close and a draw at 18/1 is recommended.

More Blues for Leinster?

WAS defeat to Munster in the URC semi-final that big a deal to Leinster? They rested most of their starters so they would be fresh to play against LaRochelle this weekend in the Champions Cup final at Lansdowne Road after all. However it means that their season really does rest on the result tomorrow. If they do win and Munster overcome the Stormers next weekend in Cape Town, Irish rugby would be heading into the World Cup with an incredible wind in it sails.

However another defeat to Ronan O’Gara’s men, especially at home, would be pretty devastating. The pre-eminent side in Europe for the last few years, who have entered every competition for years as favourites would have won just one European Cup in 11 years. They should be winning with the squad they have in the form they are in although the absence of Johnny Sexton means we’re going to tip more heartbreak for Leo Cullen’s men and La Rochelle to win by 1-5 at 8/1.

Threat to the Treaty emerges

LIMERICK are the only team that can be eliminated from the Munster Senior Hurling Championship this Sunday. Didn’t imagine we’d be typing that with two weekends of fixtures to go.

A win for Cork against Clare in Ennis and a Tipp victory over Limerick in Thurles would mean the triple All-Ireland champions would join Waterford in exiting the championship with one game remaining.

In that scenario Limerick could only reach four points and Clare would also finish on four and being ahead of Limerick on the head-to-head differential, they would progress to the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals. The Treaty men remain 1/3 to down the Premier at Thurles but have narrowed to 10/11 to lift Liam for a fourth successive time.

Mayo will be up against it

DAVID Clifford (11/4 to be footballer of the year again) and co will welcome Mayo to Killarney in what looks like being the biggest game of Group 1 of the All-Ireland series, in all respect to Cork and Louth, whose fixture at Pairc Tailteann in Navan next weekend is likely to decide who comes third and progresses.

Despite it being such a prestige fixture, Mayo have only won two Championship clashed between the two since 1951 and Kerry have a 28-year unbeaten run in the competition in Killarney. Mayo are 11/4 to win and 5/2 to top the group. Cork’s odds of coming first are 16/1.

The Bet

Katie Taylor is 8/13 favourite but backing her at 8/11 to win on points is more sensible.

We know her for her fast-paced, aggressive style, a combination of skill, speed, fast footwork and relentless pressure that overwhelms opponents. She has only six stoppages and isn’t someone who goes out looking for a big punch.

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