Sydney University Boxing Club member Taylah Robertson will use the 2019 Australian titles as a stepping stone to selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
While defending the 51kg (flyweight) crowns she won in 2017 and 2018 are her priority, she’s also keen to “atone” for the bronze medal she won at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
With only seven athletes registered to compete in the flyweight division at the Games, Taylah was fast-tracked straight into the semi-finals by virtue of a randomly selected first-round bye.
She went the distance with English opponent Lisa Whiteside before eventually losing the semi-final 2-3. Bronze medals are awarded to the losing semi-finalists – a rule that has been in place for women boxers since the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
While she was proud to earn selection to represent Australia at the Games, Taylah says she’d like to win a medal through her efforts in the hempen square.
And while she’ll be chasing a third consecutive 51kg Elite title at the Australian championships, she’ll also be chasing a fifth successive national.
Taylah won her first title as a 15-year-old in the Junior division and followed that with a title in the Youth division before stepping into the elite ranks.
She said her main opposition in claiming her third Elite title will come from Kristy Harris and Viviana Ruiz. “Kristy is coming down from the 54kg division,” Taylah said.
“She competed at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and won the Elite Women’s 54kg World Title in India last year.
“Viviana and I have met five times. She’s always a tough opponent. I’ve won four of those bouts, three by unanimous points decisions, while she’s beaten me once on a split point decision.”
Taylah’s preparation for the Nationals included a trip to Europe in May, when she competed at the 36th annual Feliks Stamm International Boxing Tournament in Warsaw, Poland.
“It’s a prestigious tournament on the European circuit that attracts boxers from around the globe,” she said. The 21-year-old Australian defeated Roumaysa Boualam of Algeria 4-1 and then lost 5-0 to Sousa Graziele of Brazil.
Taylah then went to Spain to compete in the Boxam Elite tournament at Castellon, where she won gold by defeating Tasmin Benny of New Zealand 4-1 in the final.
Originally from Bribie Island, just north of Brisbane, Taylah’s introduction to the ‘sweet science’ came about in an unusual way when she was 12.
“I’d just started high school at St Columban College at Caboolture and was on my way home on the school bus when I saw a sign advertising boxing classes,” she said.
“I was a bit of a tomboy at the time and I thought it would be cool to give it a try.
“No-one in the family had any interest in boxing, it was just a decision I made and I enjoyed the training and classes. Mum didn’t know where I was on those early training afternoons.
“I was self-driven to do it. I just wanted to get into a sport and it really appealed to me. I did it for fitness and helped some of the boys as a sparring partner.
“Then the coach asked if I wanted to have my first fight and I really enjoyed it so I started going (to training) once a week, then three times a week and then every day and weekends. I just got addicted to it.”
Her first coach was Ty Gilchrist, a former super lightweight professional turned trainer at the Bribie Island Boxing Club before she began training with Mark Evans, now President of Boxing Queensland, at his Impact gym at Cooroy.
“I did the hour-and-a-half drive every day through school to train with Mark,” she said.
He was in her corner when she won her first national junior title in 2015 and as she progressed through the junior and youth divisions to win her elite 51kg national titles in 2017 and 2018.
In late 2018, Taylah moved to Sydney to join the Sydney University Boxing Club where the legendary Johnny Lewis is head coach. While she still works with Mark Evans, she also trains with Lewis, with Anthony Redwood at the Grand High Performance gym at Picton, and with the national team in Canberra.
“I’m starting a bridging course next semester to get into Sydney University. I want to get into media studies to study film and post-production,” Taylah said.
She’ll be part of her own production if she fights her way to the dais in Tokyo.
FIJI SPORTS PROJECT
Taylah Robertson and Sydney University Boxing Club teammate Ella Boot recently visited Fiji for the launch of the Johnny Lewis Fiji Sports Project at the Police Special Response Unit training centre in Suva.
The Boxing Club, with the assistance of dedicated and passionate sporting sponsors, was the conduit for $60,000 of equipment to assist boxing in Fiji. The
equipment included two full-sized Olympic boxing rings to the Fiji Police Boxing Club and the Fiji Amateur Boxing Association as well as boxing bags, gloves and training equipment.
“I have been visiting Fiji now for many years and watched sports emerge, grow and even decline often because of a lack of training equipment,” SUBC head coach Johnny Lewis said.
“The Fiji Sports Project was set up to provide Fiji with up-to- date sporting equipment through fundraising, donations and the vision of generous businesspeople in Australia. Regardless of the lack of equipment Fiji has always had exceptional sporting talent and this project is about allowing those talented Fijians to train in Fiji for Fiji.”
Lewis was assisted by Robertson and Boot in leading training sessions with local boxers.