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big bout Eddie Hearn warns Katie Taylor to guard against complacency in latest title fight

Though Sharipova doesn’t appear to be in the same class as the Bray woman, Hearn can’t shake the feeling that the Kazakh could surprise everyone in Liverpool.

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Katie Taylor and Firuza Sharipova after the press conference in Liverpool yesterday as promoter Eddie Hearn looks on. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Katie Taylor and Firuza Sharipova after the press conference in Liverpool yesterday as promoter Eddie Hearn looks on. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Katie Taylor and Firuza Sharipova after the press conference in Liverpool yesterday as promoter Eddie Hearn looks on. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn has warned Katie Taylor not to take her unknown Kazakh opponent Firuza Sharipova for granted in what most believe should be a routine mandatory title defence for her tomorrow night.

Hearn has been around enough of Taylor’s opponents to know the ones who need to be treated with caution – and the multi-millionaire promoter, who has guided Taylor to the pinnacle of the boxing world, admits to having a strange feeling about this encounter.

Though Sharipova doesn’t appear to be in the same class as the Bray woman, Hearn can’t shake the feeling that the Kazakh could surprise everyone in Liverpool. First, there is the size of her delegation.

“There are probably seven or eight in her team, and then there’s everyone else who’s come with her.”

Sharipova is a trailblazer for female boxing in her native country. She became the country’s first female professional fighter in 2016, and government officials are believed to be part of her entourage.

It’s their attitude which has put Hearn on red alert. “They’re very serious people,” he said. “She comes with a big reputation, a lot of support, and they’ve been quite difficult to be honest with you. They’re not particularly happy about anything.”

They have complained they are not staying in the same hotel as the Taylor party. But this is normal protocol before a world title fight.

The cold weather is another source of irritation, though given that Sharipova’s training camp was in a snow-covered forest outside Moscow she shouldn’t be too bothered by the Mersey weather.

The gym facilities are not up to scratch and Hearn acknowledges they have a legitimate grievance here. “It’s very difficult now because of Covid: gyms are shut in hotels,” he said.

“The worrying thing is they’re taking it very seriously. You see a lot of people turn up, ‘Oh, thank you so much for the opportunity.’

They’re like: ‘We have to get this right. We’re winning this fight and we can’t have anything get in the way of our preparation.’

“That’s a bit worrying. They’re not just here to make up the numbers.

“And there’s a lot unknown about her. Like, if you watch her, she can punch, she’s quite unorthodox, very tough... I don’t know...

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“She’s either just a solid fighter or really, really good and really dangerous. I hope it’s just the first one to be honest with you. Katie wants the second one!

“But we just want to get through this fight and then, obviously, (Amanda) Serrano looms.

“It’s just that you see so many banana skins – non-stop now – where people are losing, because they’re thinking [beyond the fight in front of them].

“Katie’s not that kind of fighter, but it’ll certainly be a sigh of relief if her hand can get raised on Saturday and we can move forward to that Serrano fight.”

He acknowledges he is very nervous about how the fight will turn out.

“I just don’t know, really, what we’re up against and the whole thing seems quite strange; it feels like we’re up against this sort of country-backed fighter, who has come in on a mission to dethrone Katie. That’s what it feels like.

“Which is good: it means we’re going to get someone who’s coming to win. And there have been a lot of fights with Katie where you know that she is going to win those fights.”

But Taylor has had tough fights as well suggests Hearn.

“The Persoon fight was the one that was the toughest of Katie’s career, at MSG, and the rematch was another one where I was extremely nervous.

“The Natasha Jonas fight was tough, Christina Linardatou was quite tough as well. Jessica McCaskill. So, it’s not like she’s breezed through every fight.”

He believes though that if the Serrano fight goes ahead it will be a defining one in Taylor’s career. And it is very close to being agreed.

“Contracts aren’t signed but we certainly have a position with both teams where we’re saying, ‘We’re ready to go.’ She’s got a fight next week and I think it’s going to be a quite straightforward process to get that fight contracted.

“That’s the defining fight. But they’re the fights that we’ve wanted for a long time. Serrano is the one. I’d call it 50-50. We’ve never seen Katie in a 50-50.

“I think Katie in her mind thinks she’s got another five, 10 years – and she may have. I see it more like – I don’t even like saying it, because she gets really angry with me, but – three years.

“It could be six, seven, eight fights or whatever that is – but the Serrano one is one that leaves you with not many things to achieve. And they may do it twice. It’ll be such a good fight, you’ll probably end up seeing it twice,” he said.

But before all that can happen Taylor has to win tomorrow night.

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