Olympic Preview – Women’s Lightweight

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Our resident Olympic boxing expert Matt Donnellan previews the Women’s lightweight class.

All eyes will be on Katie Taylor, and what else is there to say? The best woman amateur boxer ever. Recent setbacks could be a blessing to eliminate complacency and sharpen the focus. The defeats to Mossely and Alekseevna were close enough to be reversed. Mossely, Potkonen, Alekseevna, Araujo, and Junhua have all seen Taylor’s hand raised when they faced her over the last few years.
Major Honours: Olympic gold (2012), World Championships gold (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014) and bronze (2016), European Championships gold (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014), European Games gold (2015), EU Championships gold (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013).

Other Qualifiers:

Anastasia Beliakova (Russia). Has lost to Kamenova in the European championships 2-1. Also lost to Taylor back in 2010 and has lost and won against Junhua and also slipped up against Katie’s old antagonists Queen Underwood, Jones and Ochigava. Beliakova won the World light welter title in 2014 and was the 2015 European Games winner at the same weight. She had an excellent Worlds this year defeating Araujo, Lachgar, and Potkonen as she picked up silver, losing to Mossely in the final.
Major Honours: At light welterweight – World Championships gold (2014), European Games gold (2015), European Championships gold (2014).
At lightweight – World Championships silver (2016)

Estelle Mossely (France). The World champion, a crown she richly deserves after beating all her main rivals Taylor, Beliakova, and Alekseevna. The fight with Katie was very close and Katie still leads their series 3-1. Potkonen beat the French girl twice, most recently last year, as did Alekseevna but her star is rising. Junhua is another victim, as is Taylor’s old rivals from London Ochigava and Natasha Jonas. Lachgar has defeated Mossely and so did Beliakova but that was way back in 2010.
Major Honours: At featherweight – EU Championships gold (2010).
At lightweight – World Championships gold (2016) and silver (2014), European Games silver (2015), European Championships silver (2014), EU Championships silver (2013).

Mira Potkonen (Finland). Beat Junhua 2-1 in the Worlds before losing to Beliakova. Defeated Mossely back in 2011, Kelly Harrington in 2013, Mayer in 2014 and Alexiusson, Mayer, and Mossely again in 2015 – but lost to Alexseevna. Testa got the better of her at the European qualifier and down the years she lost to Taylor, Ochigava, Araujo, Jones and Eliseyeva.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2016), EU Championships bronze (2010, 2011, 2013).

Yana Alekseevna (Azerbaijan). Overcame Alexusson, Tatar, Taylor (2-1), and Testa to clinch gold at the European Olympic qualifier in April. Yana defeated Potkonen at the Euro Games but lost 2-1 to Taylor in the semi. She also has victories over Watts and Mossely. Tsiplakova, a previous victim surprised her in September 2015, Junhua did the same this year at the Strandja tournament and at the World Championships Mossely outpointed her 3-0. Taylor got the better of Yana in the final of the 2014 Worlds.
Mojor Honours: World Championships silver (2014), European Games bronze (2015).

Adriana Araujo (Brazil). Suffered a recent loss at the Americans to Tapia of Puerto Rico and Beliakova beat her well at the Worlds. She lost to Taylor back in 2010 and has several defeats by Ochigava. On the wins column sits the names of Queen Underwood, Tapia, Jonas, and Potkonen. I feel she may be slipping though.
Major Honours: Olympics bronze (2012), American Championships gold (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012), silver (2014), and bronze (2016)

Hasnaa Lachgar (Morocco). Will be no pushover. Back in 2014 she garnered wins over Mossely and Eliseyeva, albeit in Morocco and lost 2-1 to Thongyan. At the recent Worlds she ran Beliakova close, drawing on one card, and of course she won the African qualifier.
Major Honours: African Championships silver (2014)

Mikaela Mayer (USA). Has swapped wins with Junhua and lost to Potkonen and Tapia in 2015. Generally lost to Underwood but got the nod once. Ochigava also beat her. Mikaela booked her Rio slot by winning the Americas qualifier, Tapia and Torres being her main conquests. Junhua beat her 3-0 in the last Worlds.
Major Honours: At light welterweight – World Championships bronze (2012).

Irma Testa (Italy). The 57kg World Youth gold medalist. Irma beat Potkonen in the European qualifiers and also ousted Mossely and Kamenova 2-1 before losing to Alekseevna in the final, also via split decision. She suffered an unexpected setback against Alexiusson 3-0 at the Worlds but Testa is obviously one for the future – if not for now.
Major Honours: At flyweight – Youth Olympic silver (2014), World Youth silver (2014)
At featherweight – World Youth gold (2015)
At lightweight – European Youth gold (2015)

Shelley Watts (Australia). Won Commonwealth Gold back in 2014 leaving Natasha Jones and Ireland’s Alana Murphy in her wake. Qualified by reaching the Asian qualifier final where she conceded a walk-over to Junhua. In her semi she edged out Thailand’s Thongjan 2-1. She is definitely good but hard to know how good as she has very little form versus the top girls bar a 3-0 defeat against Alexseevna in 2014. She fought at light welter at the 2012 Worlds losing to the eventual winner Pak Kyong-Ok.
Major Honours: Commonwealth gold (2014)

Yin Junhua (China). Always in the mix. She holds wins over Mayer, Thongyan, Elisyeva (The Bulgarian who received a gift decision over Taylor in 2011), Jonas, and Beliakova. On the other hand Mossely, Potkonen, Beliakova and Katie, who stopped her in 2014, have administered defeats on the Chinese fighter who won the Asian qualifier. She won this year’s Strandja defeating Alexseevna 3-0, and Testa 2-1.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2014), Asian Games gold (2014), Asian Championships silver (2015).

Jennifer Chieng (Micronesia). The tripartite pick, boxing out of the USA. Coming up in weight big time and could be out of her depth.
Major Honours: South Pacific Games gold (2015).

Matt’s Picks
Araujo, Mayer, Chieng, and Lachgar will struggle at this level and Potkonen, Junhua, Watts and Testa are real medal candidates but the gold may be beyond them even though Testa or Watts might make me eat my words. Mossely, Alexseevna and Belikova appear as Taylor’s chief opponents. The tide has turned and fighters who studied Katie for years, trying to learn how to defeat her are now themselves under the microscope. The pressure is on them and they will do well to cope better than the oft-proven Irishwoman.

1 – Taylor
2 – Mossely
3 – Alexseevna
4 – Belikova
5 – Testa
6 – Potkonen
7 – Junhua
8 – Watts
9 – Lachgar
10 – Mayer

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]