Boxing champ Taylor may forgo Rio after "terrible year"

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish Olympic boxing champion Katie Taylor may abandon a planned defence of her title in 2016 to turn professional after enduring a "terrible year" which she said saw women's boxing take a step backwards.

Taylor, a sporting icon in her country, became one of the faces of the London Games last year by playing the lead role in a stunningly successful Olympic debut for women's boxing, one that firmly left the men in the shade.

Taylor had pledged to remain an amateur in order to box in the Rio de Janeiro Games in three years' time but said on Friday that she was now "flirting" with the pro ranks, laying the blame on boxing's governing body and the sport's Irish authorities.

"This year has been a terrible year for me," Taylor, who last year turned down a number of professional contracts, was quoted as saying in the Irish Independent newspaper.

"With the European championships (in July), it was just a fight in a little tent in front of 100 people; it was really badly organised... For an Olympic medallist to be fighting in front of that kind of crowd, it was just disappointing. It looked like women's boxing was taking a step backwards."

The one-time international soccer player, 27, bemoaned the lack of progress made by AIBA (The International Boxing Association) in opening its new professional league to women.

The ruling body has established AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) and the World Series of Boxing (WSB) to stop losing boxers to the traditional professional ranks by offering male fighters a living while still allowing them a shot at Olympic gold.

Taylor's coach, her father Peter, has been trying to get information regarding any plans to extend WSB to female boxers but has not received answers, the lightweight champion said.

"This should have been the year when the WSB was set up and we capitalised on what happened last year," Taylor said.

"It will be hard to get the motivation if this WSB doesn't go ahead. I feel a bit frustrated stepping backwards, instead of pushing on from last year."

AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo told Reuters last year that he would examine the possibility of extending the new professional leagues to include women after the London Games.

However the governing body said on Friday that while it was would consider a women's WSB in the future, it is not foreseen for the time being for a range of technical and organisational reasons.

AIBA said it naturally took Taylor's opinion seriously but pointed to the record number of competitors currently taking part in the second Women's Junior World Boxing Championships in Bulgaria as proof that it was committed to developing the sport.

"We all admire Katie and recognise that any frustration she feels stems from her sincere passion for the sport. However we have to disagree that the state of women's boxing is going backwards, far from it in fact," AIBA said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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