liverpool showdown | 

Is Katie Taylor's opponent Firuza Sharipova as good as her trash-talk?

It would be a massive shock if Kazakhstan fighter was to get hold of undisputed world champ’s belts
Katie Taylor is interviewed during a media day ahead of her undisputed lightweight championship bout against Firuza Sharipova at the Liverpool Guild of Students. Photo: Sportsfile

Katie Taylor is interviewed during a media day ahead of her undisputed lightweight championship bout against Firuza Sharipova at the Liverpool Guild of Students. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

One thing we know for sure about Katie Taylor’s latest opponent, she can talk the talk.

Firuza Sharipova, a 27-year-old mother of one, has opted not to show the unbeaten Taylor an ounce of respect ahead of their showdown in the Liverpool Arena.

She has won the pre-fight verbal exchanges, hands down. It is simply not in Taylor’s nature to become embroiled in trash-talking outside the ring.

Instead, the Bray pugilist has always walked the walk, and will be expected to do so on Saturday night.

Based on pedigree, there is no justification that Sharipova has a shot at securing Taylor’s five world championship belts. Granted, she has won all bar one of her 14 fights, with eight of those victories coming inside the distance.

However, she hasn’t beaten anybody of real merit, and she is ranked 13th best lightweight in the world by BoxRec and 166th in their pound-for-pound ratings, whereas Taylor is the number one in the lightweight and number two in the pound-for-pound rankings.

But in their wisdom, the World Boxing Association nominated Sharipova, Kazakhstan’s first female professional fighter, as a mandatory challenger.

Taylor risked losing the belt and the moniker of being the unified and undisputed lightweight world champion unless she accepted the challenge.

Of course, there is always the possibility Sharipova will have us eating humble pie on Saturday night. One punch can change the course of a fight – and the Kazakh fighter has power.

In the last month, Kid Galahad, Terri Harper and, most spectacularly, Teófimo López surrendered their belts in huge upsets. López’s shock loss to Australian George Kambosos Jr would have resonated most with Taylor. López was her male equivalent in the lightweight category.

He had an unblemished 16-0 record and, like Taylor, held the unified WBA, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine belts, having sensationally beaten Vasyl Lomachenko in October 2020.

It has now emerged that López had risked his life in the ring.

After the fight, he was diagnosed with a condition, pneumomediastinum, which, according to one doctor, was like somebody had tied a 300-pound set of weights around his chest. “He’s lucky he’s not dead,” said one medical expert. Guarding against complacency has never been an issue for Taylor, though her performances have flatlined in her last three fights.

Sharipova believes the presence of Taylor’s former amateur foe Sofya Ochigava in her corner, one of a handful of fighters to beat the Wicklow boxer, will prove decisive.

But Ochigava, who still disputes her 2012 Olympic final loss to Taylor, can only do so much.

One wonders whether it was wise on Sharipova’s part to dredge up a fight that happened nine years ago to get under Taylor’s skin.

“Sofya has been in my camp from the very beginning, has passed on all her knowledge to me and has done her best to help me defeat Katie Taylor. I watched their fight in the final of the Olympic Games, and I’m sure that the judges helped Taylor.

“Sofya knocked her down, which wasn’t counted. Sofya was better in the fight, she won it. Taylor is usually not afraid of anyone, but in that final fight, Sofya saw fear in her eyes. Even now, Taylor refused to fight Sofya.”

“I will prove I am underestimated, and on December 11, I will end the year by beating Katie Taylor. I am flying to Liverpool to win the hearts of the whole world, and take the belts from Katie Taylor.”

All Sharipova needs to do now is walk the walk and we will have a fight on Saturday night.

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