National crown Taylor made for starlet

Heart of Portsmouth's Taylor Smith lands with a left against Phoenix Fire's Amber Leyland Picture: Sam Young/England Boxing
Heart of Portsmouth's Taylor Smith lands with a left against Phoenix Fire's Amber Leyland Picture: Sam Young/England Boxing

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TAYLOR SMITH signalled her emergence as she claimed the England Boxing Junior Development Championships title.

The Heart of Portsmouth (HOP) ace stormed to victory in the final of the competition in Rotherham on Saturday.

Taylor’s certainly a hot prospect and very determined.

Q Shillingford

Despite having just two skills bouts as her experience going into the event, Smith overcame Phoenix Fire’s Amber Leyland on a split decision.

That saw the 16-year-old emerge with the title at 63kg in Class B on a day to savour.

Smith’s levels of fitness reached in training paid off as she came on strong at the end of each round.

She also followed the game plan delivered by coach Ricky Jeffery to the letter.

HOP head coach, Q Shillingford, lauded her efforts.

Shillingford said: ‘It’s a great win for Taylor and we’re all absolutely delighted for her.

‘Her opponent had more experienced and it was hotly-contested bout all the way.

‘But Taylor matched her punch for punch before pressing home her advantage.

‘She matched her competitively and put the pressure on at the end of the round.

‘Taylor was the more dominant come-forward boxer and that catches the judges’ eyes.

‘Taylor said how hard it was and she was glad she put the training in ahead of the final.

‘That is what has made the difference.’

The path was paved for Smith’s final contest, after she agreed to drop 3kg to make her category.

That occurred with no opponent to meet at the higher weight.

Smith agreed to make that commitment, which earned the praise of Shillingford.

He feels that shows the determination the talent possesses.

‘To lose the weight she did says a lot about Taylor,’ said Shillingford.

‘She weighed 67kg and was entered at 66kg.

‘There was no-one at her weight but there was a girl at 63kg.

‘There was a chance of a bout to be made.

‘It was a task but I put it to her and she was keen.

‘Taylor was keen to lose the weight and wanted to fight.

‘It showed her commitment and character.’

The quality of female boxers now at HOP was a big help for Smith in her title tilt.

That enabled her make strides despite her relative inexperience.

Shillingford added: ‘Taylor joined us about seven months ago and she’s had one skills bout. Then we had a show where she had a skills bout.

‘But she’s had Ivy-Jane Smith, Ebonie Jones, Morgan Fewings and Zoe Woodley to help her with sparring.

‘There’s a great girls team forming here at Heart of Portsmouth.

‘Taylor is in the gym all the time, out running and very dedicated. She’s a good role model.

‘She is appreciative of all her coaches and that shows a maturity.

‘She’s not just thinking about herself but also the people who got her there.

‘Taylor’s certainly a hot prospect and very determined.’