By Padraic Halpin
LONDON (Reuters) - Women boxing's poster girl Katie Taylor of Ireland was a step away from becoming one of the first Olympic women's boxing champions on Wednesday when she produced a clinical performance to reach the lightweight final.
The four-time amateur world champion, at the forefront of the campaign to get women's boxing into the Olympics, beat Tajikistan's Mavzuna Chorieva 17-9 in front of another raucous crowd packed with travelling Irish fans.
After demolishing highly-rated Briton Natasha Jonas on Monday, Taylor put on less of a show this time, admitting that the Tajik, whom she beat by a similar score in the semi-finals of this year's world championships, was a trickier prospect.
"It was a completely different fight to Monday's. It was always going to be tricky over the first couple of rounds, she is a good counter puncher and you just have to stay calm and composed and rack up the points," Taylor told reporters.
"She is very dirty in close as well, we knew she was going to be physical in close so I had to just box... She was (trying to wind me up) from the very start but I just kept to my boxing really."
Taylor said it was like boxing at home in Dublin, although Irish fans who tried to watch the fight on the internet were left disappointed after national broadcaster RTE said the volume of traffic caused its website to crash.
While Chorieva showed the Irish fighter little respect, the lightning fast Taylor was still far too good, winning each round without ever being troubled.
Taylor, demonstrating the kind of sleek footwork most boxers in the men's draw could only dream of possessing, did most of the damage with a string of left hands as Chorieva tried to avoid the Irish woman's potentially devastating right overhand.
The Tajik, who at 19 is seven years Taylor's junior, already had her eyes on the Rio de Janeiro Games in four years time.
"Next time I will take her, but she will win the gold medal at these Olympics," the bronze medal winner said. "I will be back for the 2016 Olympics and try for gold."
Taylor will face Russia's Sofya Ochigava in a rematch of this year's world championship final in Thursday's decider after she beat Adriana Araujo of Brazil 17-11.
Ochigava progressed in a similarly professional manner and did not mince her words ahead of the final.
"She is one of the best, but she is just another boxer. In my opinion Natasha Jonas won the first two rounds against her, but the judges didn't see it that way," Ochigava said.
"When you fight Katie you are already minus 10 points. You are fighting the judges and the whole system and they will try to give her too many points."
Earlier, three-times world champion Ren Cancan from China beat Marlen Esparza of the United States 10-8 in a virtually punch-free contest in the women's flyweight semi-finals.
She will fight Nicola Adams for the first women's Olympic boxing gold after the Briton, twice a runner up to Ren at the world championships, beat India's Mary Kom in front of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Impressive American teenager Claressa Shields will face Russia's Nadezda Torlopova, who at 33 is almost twice her age, in the last of Thursday's finals after the pair progressed through their middleweight semi-finals.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Mark Meadows and Michael Holden)