Eva Wahlstrom Happy to Challenge Familiar Face Katie Taylor
2018 was a remarkable year for women’s boxing in terms of long overdue exposure to the general sporting landscape, with plenty of recognized names facing off on more high profile broadcasts in the US than ever before.
Perhaps the fistic fates saved the best for last. This Saturday WBC super-welterweight titlist Eva Wahlstrom (22-0-1, 3 KOs) moves up in weight to challenge Katie Taylor (11-0, 5 KOs), one of the game’s brightest new stars, at Madison Square Garden in a featured preliminary on the Canelo Lopez – Rocky Fielding card. DAZN will stream the fight.
They’ll battle for Taylor’s unified WBA and IBF lightweight belts.
The undefeated opponents are worthy of prominent marque billing. Each contestant is a class act in and out of the ring, and by most reasonable estimations both women have earned a spot near the apex of pound-for-pound rankings.
After Taylor was added to the card in November, Wahlstrom was offered the fight just a few weeks prior to the event. She assumed that accepting the bout might mean having to abdicate her own belt, but that status will not be affected.
“Actually, I was preparing for Firuza Sharipova in Russia on December 22nd,” Wahlstrom told ThePrizefighters.com. “That had been postponed from October in Monaco when her team first challenged me, then a month before the fight they told us Firuza was injured and they would move it to the spring.”
“I was very frustrated since I’d been training like hell since August. Two or three days after the cancellation, my matchmaker called me and said I could fight Katie in about three weeks. I waited one night making the decision because I thought I’d lose my belt if I took the fight, but after deciding to, I heard I could keep it.”
Wahlstrom is not one of those mercenaries who is only in boxing for the money.
“I didn’t get a big offer but since I want the toughest fights I decided to take it. As I said before, I’m trying to look for the deepest waters and highest hills. I love the adventure and want to make memories in boxing, not only play it safe and keep my belt.”
“My most important message is, I think, that you should take the opportunities when life offers you one. This is a really big opportunity and I’m happy about it.”
Wahlstrom, 38, is a highly personable, family oriented artist (painter) with many interests while the relative newcomer Taylor, 11-0 (5), seems locked in to her boxing mission. Wahlstrom’s most demanding task could be simply matching Taylor’s intensity.
They meet again
The two have faced each other many times as amateurs and there seems to be plenty of mutual respect.
“Actually, when I saw Katie the first time she was maybe 17 or 18,”
reflected Wahlstrom who lives in Finland. “I wrote her a mail saying that I’d like to come to Ireland to train with her. She responded positively and we had a few camps together. I remember her as nice and polite, with good values.”
“I think we fought eight times, and she was the one who ended my tournaments every time. I beat almost everybody else except her, but many of our fights were quite even. I fought her in Norway, in Hungary, in France, in India, in Ireland. We met in the final of the European Championships and I thought I was winning, but in the last round my nose got broke from an elbow and the doctor stopped the fight at 17-19. I remember laying in the shower with my clothes on, crying after the fight. I got an award called ‘best loser.’ That’s what really hurt.”
Despite the amateur setbacks, Wahlstrom exudes confidence that things will be different in the pros.
“I don’t know about Katie, but I am now a totally different boxer. So much happened that has changed me, how I think about the sport, what I appreciate in life, and so on. I’m much more skillful and smart. As an amateur I was counting on my physics.”
In the past two years, the 5’6, 38-year old Wahlstrom has only faced three foes while 5’5, 32-year old Taylor has picked up steam in 10 paid tutorials.
Taylor won her first major title and WBA Lightweight honors in October of last year against common opponent Anahi Esther Sanchez, who Wahlstrom successfully defended against in December of 2016.
While it’s unlikely Taylor will underestimate Wahlstrom in a manner that proves problematic, between her moving up a weight division and their amateur history, if Wahlstrom starts surprisingly strong it could offset Taylor’s typical game plan of grinding opponents down.
Wahlstrom may not be able to match Taylor’s one shot power, especially counterpunching, but each woman’s recent form definitely makes it appear Wahlstrom is equal to Taylor in scoring combinations and Wahlstrom shapes up well in regard to defensive movement.
The NYC spotlight will be bright but Wahlstrom does not seem to be caught up in the glare at all. When asked what she expects from Taylor this time around Wahlstrom’s response was unusually nonchalant, and it didn’t sound like an act.
“I haven’t been thinking that much about her or how she will fight me. The pressure is on her. I fight better the bigger the arena it is. I will enjoy being the challenger this time.”
“She always said speed kills. I suppose she will try to kill me with her speed.”
A scan of online odds a week before the bell found few sites even offering odds on the match. Those that did showed Taylor as a prohibitive favorite.
In reality, Wahlstrom is not such a longshot at all. The main thing she has to worry about is probably the five-pound difference between their usual weight divisions, and what that amounts to in punching power.
Both women have displayed in your face tendencies. They often go right at their opponents, initiate firefights, and count on superior technique.
This fight probably comes down to the old, boxer-puncher equation. If Wahlstrom can get in, get out and avoid paying too big a price she is not really an underdog. Still, that’s a pretty substantial if.
Wahlstrom has an unofficial reach advantage of just over an inch. She’ll have to use her experience to make it seem like a mile.
Both ladies are looking to make a substantial statement this weekend. The winner will merit consideration for female Fighter of the Year honors.
One must assume that there’s a rematch clause on Taylor’s side.
These champions have already crossed paths many times in the ring. All things considered, it’s not so hard to imagine that even after Saturday night they will meet again.
May the best woman win. In this case, they’re two of the best women in the sport.